Last Thursday, the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors approved a motion to reorganize the divisions in which the league’s 30 teams play in, along with modifications to the criteria for teams to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Both the Eastern and Western Conferences will be split into two divisions each; the two divisions in the east will have 16 teams, while the two divisions out west will contain 14 teams. As a result, three teams have changed conferences: the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets join the Eastern Conference, and the Winnipeg Jets move to the Western Conference. This movement lets these three teams play most of their games in their respective time zone.
However, this results in a lopsided number of teams for the Eastern Conference. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman isn’t bothered by this. “So whether or not it’s a seventh or eighth team, as a practical matter it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.” he stated. This doesn’t rule out the potential for an expansion team or two in the west somewhere in the future.
These changes also impact the Stanley Cup Playoffs are organized. Whereas eight teams per conference still advance to the post-season, only the top three teams of each division will be eligible. The remaining two spaces in each conference will be assigned to teams by their total number of points in the regular-season; their division will not factor into the decision. The wild-card team with the least points will be paired with division winner, the wild-card team with the second fewest points will face the division winner with the second most points.
The Western Conference will be home to Divisions A and B, while the Eastern Conference will contain Divisions C and D.
Teams in Division A are the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks.
Teams in Division B are the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St Louis Blues and the Winnipeg Jets.
Teams in Division C are the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Teams in Division D are the Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals.
These changes will take effect during the 2013-2014 NHL season and are to remain in place for at least three seasons.