The National Hockey League has officially announced realignment plans for the 2013-14 season, reports Senior Writer Dan Rosen of NHL.com. The league will drop the number of divisions from six to four, two in each conference, and three teams will change conferences.
Moving from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference will be the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Winnipeg Jets will make the opposite switch, which will leave the East with two more teams than the West.
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reports division names will likely be announced within the next few weeks after the league figures out what makes the most sense based on geography.
Here's how the four divisions will look based on the new plan approved by the Board of Governors:
|East No. 1 ||East No. 2 ||West No. 1 ||West No. 2|
|NY Islanders||Florida||Minnesota||Los Angeles|
|Philadelphia||Ottawa||St. Louis||San Jose|
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN previously reported that the realignment proposal received approval from the NHL Players' Association, with executive director Donald Fehr stating the format would get reviewed after two seasons.
The playoff format will change to fit the new system. The top three teams in each division will qualify for the postseason, and the other two spots are wild cards in each conference, meaning the two highest point totals that haven't earned a spot based on division placement get in.
An obvious concern for teams in the Eastern Conference is the factor of having to battle two extra teams to make the playoffs. There will be 10 teams battling for two wild-card spots in the East and just eight teams in the same situation in the West.
Of all the things that will be reviewed after two seasons, the impact of the unbalanced leagues will certainly be near the top. As the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings proved last season, sneaking into the playoffs can lead to a Stanley Cup run. Teams in the East have a couple extra hurdles to earn that spot.
The NHLPA will watch closely to see exactly how large of a competitive disadvantage that will be. Otherwise, the plan is pretty straightforward.