You can’t say the NHL isn’t bold, approving a drastic realignment plan calling for four conferences and home-and-away series with every other team.
NHL officials had been mulling several different realignment plans to accomodate the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg this season. But once it was apparent there would some level of realignment, many teams threw out their pitches for changes that would address their needs.
The plan is pretty much the one floated a few weeks ago, with conferences split along time zones and regions, although with a few tweaks:
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
Chicago Black Hawks
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
There are some key changes here. First, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are in the same conference; both teams had originally objected to a plan placing them in different conferences. Second, the Florida teams are in an odd conference with several Canadian teams; the change allowed the Pennsylvania teams to be together. Third, the whole issue of Detroit or Columbus moving to an Eastern conference was sidestepped by leaving them in a conference with several Central Time Zone teams.
The end result: a little more travel for Eastern teams and a little less for Western teams. No longer will the Minnesota Wild play several series against the Canadian teams currently in their division.
The realignment was approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors yesterday.
“I had nothing against the existing format, and but for the move to Winnipeg we wouldn’t be looking to change it,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com. “It wasn’t a question of being dissatisfied, but we had a number of clubs that were unhappy with the current state of affairs, and in the context of having to make a change anyway felt it was important for their needs and their concerns and their issues to be recognized. It was intended to be as much a global solution as possible.”
The plan also provides a little flexibility should there be more franchise moves in coming seasons. With only two teams in the Eastern conferences, a team moving from the Western Conference could easily be added to either.
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