NHL Approves Four-Conference Realignment Plan
The NHL Board of Governors has approved a four-conference realignment plan, according to Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free-Press. According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, teams will plays teams outside their conference in a home-and-home series with all remaining games against conference rivals.
The realignment was proposed because of the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg; the Jets are playing this season in the Southeast Divison. After this season, there will be no more divisions, but just four conferences, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.
Update: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said: "We had solid support and we were confident it would pass."
Update #2: One of the conferences will be Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, both New York teams (Islanders and Rangers), New Jersey and Carolina. Another will be Columbus, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The third will be Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay and the final conference will be San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver, Colorado, Edmonton, Calgary, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Update #3: Mirtle reports that with the realignment, there is no more East vs. West "in any sense," so any two teams could meet in the finals. The top four teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs and the respective champions of each conference will meet in the third round, with the survivors meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals. Update #4: McKenzie reports that the realignment still requires NHLPA approval and that the playoff format for the third round and beyond has not been finalized and that the general managers will determine that format.