NHL Reportedly Considering 4-Conference Realignment

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09:  National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with the media at a press conference announcing the start of the NHL season at the Westin Times Square on January 9, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL has always done things a little bit differently. Now, the league might be switching to a four-conference alignment.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC reported the news, as relayed by Zack Cox of NESN:

The proposal, which must still be approved by the league’s board of governors, would do away with the current two-conference, six-division format in favor of four individual conferences—two with seven teams and two with eight. A major impetus for the desire for realignment was the Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-12 season, which has created significant travel struggles for teams in the Southeast Division. 

Friedman tweeted what the proposed alignment would look like:

There are a few things that seem odd here.

For one, why have 16 teams in the "Eastern" conferences and just 14 teams out West? And how exactly would the playoff system work?

Friedman somewhat addressed both of those concerns in his initial report (via Rod Perry of CBC):

Now the other thing that's being talked about is a potential wild card for those two conferences of eight teams. That's the players' biggest concern. They want there to be a more even chance in those two larger conferences, and I think they're working on some sort of wild card.

Would it be a baseball-style wild card, where perhaps the eighth seed would play the wild-card seed in a one- or three-game playoff to determine which team advanced to the playoffs? Or would it be done in each conference, with the fourth seed in both Eastern conferences taking on the wild cards?

I would guess each conference holds its playoffs first, followed by the winners of the two Eastern conferences and two Western conferences playing, with the winners squaring off in the Stanley Cup. 

Otherwise, the league would essentially be keeping a two-conference alignment but shifting to four divisions rather than the current six.

Stay tuned, folks. Realignment seems to be in the cards this time around. Changes are coming.


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