The National Hockey League's Board of Governors has approved realignment and a division-based format for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, effective for the 2013-14 season. The realignment plan creates two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference. The names of the divisions will be formalized at a later date.
The new alignment will place several clubs in more geographically appropriate groupings and will intensify already-fierce rivalries throughout the League. The new scheduling matrix will ensure that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season for the first time since 1997-98.
The new alignment (VIEW MAP):
|Western Conference ||Eastern Conference |
|Division A ||Division B ||Division C ||Division D |
|Anaheim ||Chicago ||Boston ||Carolina |
|Calgary ||Colorado ||Buffalo ||Columbus |
|Edmonton ||Dallas ||Detroit ||New Jersey |
|Los Angeles ||Minnesota ||Florida ||NY Islanders |
|Phoenix ||Nashville ||Montreal ||NY Rangers |
|San Jose ||St. Louis ||Ottawa ||Philadelphia |
|Vancouver ||Winnipeg ||Tampa Bay ||Pittsburgh |
| || ||Toronto ||Washington |
Among the many strategic goals achieved by the realignment plan:
* provides the Winnipeg Jets a more geographically suitable grouping of rivals;
* enables the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings to compete primarily against clubs in their own time zone;
* moves the Dallas Stars out of the Pacific Division to a more geographically appropriate and time-zone friendly grouping;
* changes the Minnesota Wild's alignment to a more historically relevant and time zone friendly grouping;
* ensures that the Colorado Avalanche, as the only U.S.-based team in the Mountain Time Zone, is placed in a more geographically suitable grouping.
NEW REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE MATRIX
Western Conference (7-Team Divisions)
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 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 Division and one more game inside Conference outside Division)
Eastern Conference (8-Team Divisions)
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 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 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
NEW STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FORMAT
Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three "seeds" in each Division).
The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as "Wild Cards," will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.
"Seeding" of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.
The Playoffs will proceed on a "Divisional Basis" as follows:
* #1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 -- winners play each other for Division Championship
* Conference Finals -- Division A Champion vs. Division B Champion and Division C Champion vs. Division D Champion.
* Eastern and Western Conference Champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.
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.