NHL contemplating idea of cutting divisions from six to four

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The massive overhaul, which features the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets switching conferences, was discussed Wednesday in New York when governors representing all six divisions met with commissioner Gary Bettman to try and find a solution to the ongoing schedule conflict.

Over the next few weeks, governors and GMs will be asked to look it over and decide whether it's worth a vote. Public reaction, especially in the media, will also factor in to whether it makes it to a vote at the board of governors meeting in Dallas next month.

The concept goes as follows:

-Four divisions instead of six. The Eastern and Western Conferences would each have eight-and seven-team divisions;

-Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix would make up the eight-team division in the Western Conference. The seven-team division would feature Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas, Minnesota and Eastern Conference newcomer Atlanta;

-The new divisions in the East: one would feature Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh and Western Conference alumni Columbus. The other division would include the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina. The Caps rejoining their old Patrick Division rivals was a popular sentiment at Wednesday's meeting;

-The divisions would be more sensitive to time zones with a huge consideration to TV start times. More games in the same time zone means less games at odd start times for viewers. This would also cut down on travel;

-The top four playoff seeds would come from the top two teams in each division. Four wild-card playoff berths would then be battled among the teams with the next highest point totals. So it would remain eight playoff teams in each conference.

A source stressed Friday that the idea still needs to marinade among team executives over the next few weeks. One GM contacted Friday by CP didn't even know about it yet.

What remains to be seen is how the Thrashers and Jackets will feel about switching conferences. For Columbus, it appears to make sense to be in the same division as Ohio-based Pittsburgh - although who knows where the Penguins end up next season.

Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said the proposal was news to him.

"We have not yet been approached by anyone associated with the league regarding switching divisions and conferences," Waddell said in a statement. "Therefore, we'll defer to the league and will not comment until the appropriate time.

"I will say that our organization is pleased with the current situation and our alignment in the Eastern Conference."


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