NHL Realignment: What New Set-Up Means to the San Jose Sharks

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NHL Realignment: What New Set-Up Means to the San Jose Sharks
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Gary Bettman deserves some credit for getting a more balanced NHL through realignment

I have been as critical of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as almost anyone I know.  That is not going to change just because he has overseen a realignment that improves league balance.

He still deserves the bulk of the blame for failed franchises in Phoenix, Columbus and Atlanta, while cities that wanted teams lay vacant in Winnipeg, Hamilton and other locations.  He even deserves blame for not giving Winnipeg back its original Jets as he stubbornly tries to hold on to Phoenix.

In fact, Bettman probably deserves some blame for the lockout in the first place (why is it up to the players to control the owners' spending?), and for leaving the league stuck with two more teams than it should have.

But it takes boldness and consensus-building to make a change as radical as the one the NHL has approved in the Board of Governors meetings this weekend.

According to NHL.com, the league will change to a four-conference alignment for the 2012-13 season.  Two conferences will have eight teams and the other two will have seven.

The seven-team conferences play each other six times and everyone else twice, keeping the schedule at 82 games.  The eight-team conferences play four of their teams five times and three of them six, while also having a home-and-home for every other team.

The thing that does not add up is that every team they play six times one year is played five the next and vice versa, but that would leave every other year with an extra game.

As of now, the league has not named the conferences.  This slideshow will include a name and characteristics for each as well as some advantages those teams have in the new system...

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