With the former Atlanta Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets this season, the NHL has had to make some difficult decisions in terms of realigning the Conferences. The Thrashers were an Eastern Conference team and since moving further west to Winnipeg, it simply doesn’t make sense to have a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets or Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference and Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference. This has sparked much debate about how the NHL will have to realign itself next season. At the Board of Governors meeting yesterday in Pebble Beach, California, an entirely new format being referred to as the “Four-Conference Format” was approved and will be implemented next season. According to Commissioner Gary Bettman, the discussion on realignment lasted only an hour and he acknowledged that there are some teams that may be slightly disadvantaged by this change. The board voted for the four-conference format over the much easier solution of moving Winnipeg to the Western Conference’s Central Division and either Columbus or Detroit to the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division. There are still many details to be worked out but here is how the new Conferences are going to look in the 2012-2013 season:
Conference A: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks.
Conference B: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets.
Conference C: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Conference D: Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Washington Capitals.
Come postseason, 4 teams from each conference will make the playoffs: # 1 will play # 4 and #2 will play # 3. As you can see, the two “Western” Conferences each have 8 teams, while the two “Eastern” Conferences each have seven. This leads to an imbalance in the probability of making the playoffs. The Western teams have a 50% chance of making the playoffs, while the Eastern teams have a 57% chance of making the playoffs. On a positive note, this new alignment means that each team would play each other at least twice every season, once at home and once on the road. In the seven-team Conferences, teams will play each other six times, three home and three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams will play each other either 5 or 6 times per season on a rotating basis. This is a drastic change for the NHL. Thoughts??