The NHL received some good news on Thursday regarding conference realignment, a topic that is gaining a lot of attention around the league and a move that many feel is needed.
UPDATE: Friday, March 8, at 11:32 p.m. ET by Patrick Clarke
Next up to review the NHL's realignment plan, the Board of Governers. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed that the NHLPA has "consented" to the plan (via NHL.com's Dan Rosen):
The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised Plan for Realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season. Our next step will be to bring the proposed Plan for Realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant.
---End of update---
Adam Gretz of CBS Sports reports the following:
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Donald Fehr announced that the NHLPA has given consent to realignment for the 2013-14 season with the understanding that it will be revisited and re-evaluated after the 2014-15 season.
As Gretz also reports, the only thing in the way of keeping this from becoming a reality at this point is approval from the board of governors, but there is no set time for that vote.
Realignment has been badly needed since 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg. The current proposal has the Jets moving out West. It also provides a few more moves that make sense for some teams while increasing the travel of a couple of others.
The proposed realignment is as follows, according to Gretz and courtesy of CBS Sports:
|Division 1||Division 2|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Boston Bruins|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Buffalo Sabres|
|New Jersey Devils||Detroit Red Wings|
|New York Islanders||Florida Panthers|
|New York Rangers||Montreal Canadiens|
|Philadelphia Flyers||Ottawa Senators|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Washington Capitals||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Division 3||Division 4|
|Chicago Blackhawks||Anaheim Ducks|
|Colorado Avalanche||Calgary Flames|
|Dallas Stars||Edmonton Oilers|
|Minnesota Wild||Los Angeles Kings|
|Nashville Predators||Phoenix Coyotes|
|St. Louis Blues||San Jose Sharks|
|Winnipeg Jets||Vancouver Canucks|
This is a pretty drastic change. Not only are there teams jumping conferences, but there is a reduction in divisions from six to four.
This plan is great news for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings. By jumping to the East, they will dramatically cut down on travel.
This proposal has the opposite result for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, however, as Gretz points out. Those two clubs would be earning a few frequent-flier miles, as they would have to trek up north to take on their new division rivals.
The extra travel for the Florida teams highlights the hazards of any realignment plans, as it is impossible to give a fair shake to every franchise.
However, some sort of realignment is needed to bring a little more equality in travel distance for the NHL overall, and the option to review this setup afterward helps ensure that the league will continue to move to the best scenario possible.
In any case, this is a positive step in the process.