The NHL Board of Governors approved a realignment plan that would drastically impact the Wild’s future travel plans.
On Monday, the Board voted to eliminate the current two-conference, six-division system and replace it with four conferences based on geography while maintaining traditional rivalries. Two conferences will have eight teams and the other two conferences will have seven teams.
Joining Minnesota in a yet to be named conference: Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas and Winnipeg.
The Minnesota Wild said in a statement: "The Wild is thrilled with the NHL's realignment plan. This restores more traditional and regional rivalries with Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis and Winnipeg. In addition, more Wild fans will be able to watch road games as a result of having more of our conference opponents playing in the Central time zone."
A total of 26 teams voted in favor of the plan with four teams opposing the plan at the NHL Board of Governors meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will consider time frame implementation and speak to the NHLPA before implementing the changes.
The remaining three conferences will be made up of:
• Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado
• New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina
• Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay
Under the format, all teams would play every other team outside its conference twice - once home at home and once away. This would allow Wild fans to see stars in the Eastern Conference every season.
During the regular season, the realignment would help cut down on travel for many Western Conference teams, including the Wild, currently on a five-game West Coast road trip.
In the seven-team Conferences, teams would play six times – three home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the following season.
The top four teams in each Conference would make the playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team while the second-place team would play the third-place team. NHL general managers will determine the playoff structure after round two in the proposed realignment. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.