SUNRISE, Fla. – The National Hockey League 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 puts the Florida Panthers in an eight-team Eastern Conference division with the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We certainly approve of and are excited by the NHL’s realignment plan,” said Panthers President Michael R. Yormark. “Not only will we maintain and grow our in-state rivalry with the Lightning, but we will also be able to cultivate rivalries with some of the NHL’s most historic clubs. In addition, I’m sure our fans will be pleased to see every other NHL team at the BB&T Center at least once each season, while the revised Stanley Cup Playoffs format will only add intensity and excitement to the regular season and postseason.”
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.
NEW REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE MATRIX
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
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)
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.
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