Realignment Details

Posted: February 26, 2013 by Lamar Lester in News
Tags: , , , , , ,

The topic of realignment is back and in full force. The NHL and NHLPA have been working diligently (yes, I know, the lockout, yada-yada) these last three weeks on a new plan for realignment set to take effect next season.

As you may remember, this was thought to be completed back in December of 2011. However, the NHLPA shot it down because they weren’t consulted during the creation of the plan. Well that was 2 years ago, and it seems an agreement is close to being reached between the NHL/PA and it is expected to be announced by week’s end.

First things first, the basics. According to the proposal, there will be four conference/divisions as well as inter-conference/division games played and wild card playoff teams will be introduced.

New Conference/Divisions (as report by Elliotte Friedman last weekend)

East Conference, Division 1 (Central): Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs.

East Conference, Division 2 (Atlantic): Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals.

West Conference, Division 1 (Pacific): Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks.

West Conference, Division 2 (Mid-West): Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets.

As you can see, the Winnipeg Jets will finally be playing in a more appropriate time zone as their divisional counterparts. In addition, the Detroit Red Wings will finally get their wish of playing in the East. However, so will the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Regular Season ‏Format (based on reports by TSN’s BobMcKenzie earlier today)

The current proposal for the East conferences calls for a home-away against opponents in the West conferences(28 games). Teams outside of the division in the East will play three times(24 games). Also, there will be 30 games played between teams in the same conference and division were teams will play two teams five times, and five teams four times). For example, the Detroit Red Wings(East) will play the Nashville Predators(West) twice with one being home and the other away. The Boston Bruins(East 1) will play the Washington Capitals(East 2) three times.

As for the West conference, it’s the same as the East but the numbers change. West vs. East home-away for 32 games. Outside of the division for 21 games. 29 games will be played against opponents within the division except some will play one team four times instead of five).

Playoffs And Wild Cards

As mentioned, there may be an introduction of a wild card. This is where it gets choppy.

From ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

The new plan calls for divisional playoffs, not conference playoffs as the NHL currently has. The division winner with the most regular-season points will play the lowest-seeded wild-card team in the first round, with the other division winner playing the other wild-card team.

The playoff format as detailed in the league memo Tuesday calls for the top three teams in each division to earn postseason berths. The remaining four spots would go to wild cards, the top two records in each conference. That means there’s a possibility five teams make it from one division and only three from another.

It’ll take a second to understand that, but eventually will make sense. What it means is in each of the 4 divisions, the top 3 teams get in the playoffs. However, the 4th seed is not guaranteed because you have the fourth best points in your division. If another team in a different division (but same conference) has more points than you, they get the 4th seed spot even if their points rank 5th in their own division. That is why there’s the possibility of five teams making the playoffs at the expense of teams from a different division. Here’s my guess of how it would work:

Division 1
Team 1: 50 points
Team 2: 48 points
Team 3: 46 points
Team 4(wild card): 43
Team 5(wild card): 42

Division 2
Team 1: 48 points
Team 2: 46 points
Team 3: 44 points
Team 4(wild card): 41
Team 5(wild card): 40

In this example, Division 1’s 4th seed wild card team has the most points of all the wild cards, so that team will make the playoffs. In addition to that, Division 1’s 5th seed wild card team has more points than Division 2’s 4th seed wild card team. In this situation, both Team 4 and Team 5 of Division 1 will make the playoffs at the expense of Division 2’s Team 4. Using the first example, this is how it would look:

Division 1
Team 1: 50 points
Team 2: 48 points
Team 3: 46 points
Team 4(wild card): 43

Division 2
Team 1: 48 points
Team 2: 46 points
Team 3: 44 points
Team 4(Team 5 wild card from Division 1): 42

As far as where the wild cards will be seeded within the conference, TSN’s BobMcKenzie says, “it remains to be seen how the wild cards are slotted for first-round”, but base on my example, it’s pretty simple. 1st seed vs. wild card 4th seed and 2nd seed vs. 3rd seed. It would work the same for all 4 divisions.

This could be the new realignment plan put into place next season and it will run until after the 2015-16 season when there will be another meeting between the NHL/PA to update realignment if need be. According to SportsNet’s John Shannon, if the two sides can agree in principle by Friday, we can expect the Board of Governors to vote on it by next week. But as of now neither the NHLPA nor the NHL Board of Governor have signed off on this current proposal. So as always, we the fans must wait.

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