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League wants realignment decision by December

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 4:35 PM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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League wants realignment decision by December
No decisions on realignment were made at Tuesday's Board of Governors meeting, but Commissioner Gary Bettman said one will be needed by December in order to proceed with the 2012-2013 schedule.
NEW YORK -- The first formal discussions regarding realignment for the 2012-13 season were held Tuesday at the NHL Board of Governors meeting. However, the only consensus reached by the time the meeting broke in the early afetrnoon was that a decision on how the League will be realigned for next season needs to be reached by December in order for the scheduling process to begin on time.

The League must adopt some form of realignment because Winnipeg, which will play the upcoming season in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, has been assured of a spot in the Western Conference for the 2012-13 season. Therefore, it's possible that the Jets' move could create a ripple effect by forcing more teams to move or the League to blow up the current system and re-draw it for 2012-13.

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"Obviously we have to make arrangements to move Winnipeg west, and we had an opportunity to explore the issues," Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com. "No conclusions were reached, but it's something I'm hopeful we can resolve at the December meeting."

Bettman described the tone of the discussions as "very constructive and very positive." A number of realignment scenarios were laid out in front of the governors, including ideas to keep the current six-division format or move into a four-conference format, featuring two conferences of eight teams and two conferences of seven teams.

Completely overhauling the current system into a four-conference system would obviously require the League to change the playoff format as well.

"There are no shortage of issues and possibilities," Bettman said. "There are a number of clubs that would like to see an adjustment as far as where they're aligned, and every club that felt that way had an opportunity to explain to the board why. We went around the room to get a sense of what people were thinking."

Among the teams looking to move to the Eastern Conference are Detroit, Nashville and Columbus.

"Selfishly we want to move to the East, but maybe there are scenarios where we would be OK with staying where we are, or maybe there is a bigger realignment out there that we would favor," Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson told NHL.com. "So, we're open to it. We have some strong views on why we want to move to the East, but we're certainly cognizant of some of the other teams' concerns.

"It was a very good opening dialogue on the subject."



The debate seems to center on how much the governors want to change the current system, which has been effective. The League is playing to roughly 90-percent capacity with natural geographic rivalries buzzing in locations such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, New York and New Jersey, Calgary and Edmonton, Los Angeles and Anaheim, and Detroit and Chicago.

"I think everyone recognizes that there are challenges in satisfying everyone," Oilers President Kevin Lowe told NHL.com. "The overall mood of the group was to try to work collectively, understanding we have a pretty good system going so far over the last number of years, the playoff formats are good, and you don't want to disrupt that too much."

But they have to do something, and December is the soft deadline to get it done.

"Hopefully we'll get it done by December because we have to do the following year's schedule, and in order to do the schedule you have to figure out how many times everybody is playing each other," Bettman said. "So, if we're going to the scheduling process in the ordinary course, which normally starts in the early winter, we need to understand how many times teams are going to be playing each other."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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