NHL realignment plan for 2013-14 approved by Board of Governors

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The Red Wings and Canadiens will be in the same division for 2013-14

The Red Wings’ new home in the Eastern Conference will be in a division that houses four of the Original Six teams. (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Even Karl Rove could see this result coming.

As expected, the NHL’s Board of Governors voted–overwhelmingly, but not unanimously–today to approve a plan to realign the league’s 30 teams into four divisions in an effort to create more geographically stable groupings.

Despite earlier reports, it appears that the divisions have not yet been named (so Milan Lucic doesn’t have to worry about looking out his window at the Atlantic Ocean while playing in the Central Division).

In an afternoon conference call, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the names were still a couple weeks away. “We’re hoping to used the names that make it easiest for our fans to conjure up which teams are where,” he added.

Apparently Gary doesn’t just think hockey has the greatest fans in the world, but also the dumbest.

Until permanent names are assigned, here is how things have been laid out:

Division A: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

Division B: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.

Division C: Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Division D: Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals join the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

While those new divisions make sense (for the most part, anyway), the transition won’t be entirely bump-free. The uneven size of the two conferences requires a creative approach to regular-season scheduling.

Here’s how it will play out in the Western Conference:

Within conference (division): 29 games
• 5 games vs. five teams (3 home/2 away vs. two teams, 2 home/3 away vs. three teams) AND 4 games vs. one team (2 home/2 away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
• 5 x 5 = 25 games
• 1 x 4 = 4 games

Within conference (Non-division): 21 games
• 3 games vs. each team (2 home/1 away vs. four teams, 1 home/2 away vs.
three teams). Teams are rotated on a yearly basis.
• 3 x 7 = 21 games

Non-conference: 32 games
• 2 games vs. each team (1 home/1 away)
• 2 x 16 = 32 games

(Exception: one team from each division plays one less game inside its division and one more game inside its conference but outside its division.)

The eight-team divisions make things a little more stable in the Eastern Conference.

Within conference (division): 30 games
• 5 games vs. two teams (3 home/2 away vs. one team, 2 home/3 away vs. one
team) AND 4 games vs. five teams (2 home/2 away). Teams are rotated on a yearly basis.
• 5 x 2 =10 games
• 4 x 5 = 20 games

Within conference (Non-division): 24 games
• 3 games vs. each team (2 home/1 away vs. four teams, 1 home/2 away vs.
four teams). Teams are rotated on a yearly basis.
• 3 x 8 = 24 games

Non-conference: 28 games
• 2 games vs. each team (1 home/1 away)
• 2 x 14 = 28 games

And that’s the beauty right there: every team plays a home-and-home with every team in the league, so fans will finally have at least one chance (barring injury) to see every player/team.

There’s also a new Stanley Cup playoff format that looks to the past in an effort to fire up divisional rivalries while addressing the inequities of the unbalanced conferences.

The top three finishers in each division are in. The remaining two spots will be awarded to the next two best point totals, who enter as wild cards. They’ll be seeded seventh and eighth and will play the second and first-place teams, respectively.

After that, it’s business as usual.

Interestingly, the league’s press release ends with this:

“The National Hockey League Players’ Association has given its consent to play under this new Alignment and Playoff System for a minimum of three seasons, through the 2015-16 NHL season.”

Which flies in the face of this from NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr:

“After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season.”

Nothing’s ever easy with those two, is it?

Whenever it ends, odds are this realignment will be well received — for the most part. Nashville, Florida and Tampa Bay won’t be thrilled, but if you can keep 90 percent of the teams happy, it’s a winning formula.

  • Published On Mar 14, 2013
    James C
    James C

    I personally like this, but will go one step farther. The NHL needs to EXPAND 2 more teams. Quebec needs a team again, and then put the other team in the Seattle area. This would then require moving one Eastern team west to balance the divisions. Personally I think Columbus should be that team to move west. 


    I would then also realign the divisions to some extent, a northern and southern group in the Eastern Conference.


    The North division would Boston, Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Quebec (new), New York Islanders, , and Montreal.


    The South would be New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Washington,  Tampa Bay, Florida, New Jersey, . 


    The western conference would be split in an East-West fashion. 


    The Central Division would be Nashville, Columbus, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Dallas, Colorado, 


    The Western division would be Phoenix, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Seattle (new), San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles. 


    The addition of two teams to the NHL would also require a change in the number of games played. 


    Each team would play 4 games against each division opponent (28 games). They would play 3 games against non-division conference opponents (24 games). They would also play each non-conference opponent twice (32 games). This would expand the season to 84 games, and would ensure nobody got a significant advantage from playing one opponent more or less than they played another opponent. Nobody wants to see a team make or miss the playoffs because they avoided someone else in the division. 


    The division games would be 2 home, 2 away. The non-division conference games would be 2 home 1 away vs 4 teams and 2 away 1 home vs 4 teams. They would play home and away with the non-conference opponents. 


    Also, in the event a team moves to a new location that would move them into a new division, the divisions would be realigned the second year they are in the new city. For example, if Phoenix moved to Hamilton, Ont, then the second year after the move they would be placed in the Northern Division. One team from that division would be move to another division, likely Detroit to the Central Division, and one team from the Central Division (likely Colorado), would move to the western division. 


    So they didn't expand the # of teams making the playoffs?  If they didn't that's huge - if expansion gave NHL fans one thing, it was a more meaningful playoff chase.


    Allan said it wasn't unanimous- wondering who the no votes were from?


    Great idea, will keep interest longer into the season, works just like the NFL.  More teams have a shot of the playoffs, deeper into the season. I would like to see the NHL take a page from college hockey and do back to back games, same city, same team. 


    Haha columbus, at least the islanders won't be last in the division for a while.


    Don't know why they had uneven divisions.  Why not move Columbus to B and move Colorado to A?

    Nine Vegetable
    Nine Vegetable

    That's great for Blue Jackets fans.  Now our favorite team can get pounded regularly by teams closest in proximity to us, instead of getting pounded by teams farther away from us.


    @Nine Vegetable this comment gave me a laugh. One day, Columbus won't be terrible. They actually have some good young talent it seems (though since I've never seen them on TV I can't be sure). They've landed in a pretty tough division though.