A new era in NHL hockey is set to begin.
Although it won't go into effect until the 2012-2013 season pending approval by the NHL Players' Association, the NHL Board of Governors has constructed and approved a drastic realignment plan that will completely change the league's current structure.
The plan, instigated by the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg last spring, nixes the East/West two-conference, six-division system for a four-conference blueprint without any divisions. The four conferences, arranged somewhat geographically, are below.
Conference A: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina
Conference B: Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay
Conference C: Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg
Conference D: Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado
The new structure will certainly help with the three priorities the NHL set forth at the start of the planning period:
- Move Winnipeg into a group of western teams;
- Prevent in-conference travel across more than one time zone; and
- Keep historical rivalries together.
But while the new system will greatly improve some areas of the league, not everyone benefits. The Southeast Division was completely obliterated, with former clubs heading in three different directions. As well, the currently unnamed conferences are not only quite unbalanced in number of teams (A and B have seven, C and D have eight) but also in strength of those teams.
Here are a few winners and losers of the new system.