The National Hockey League sent out a memo to all 30 teams on Tuesday with a proposal for a new realignment plan. The new structure would keep the two conferences, but shift to just two divisions in each, with Wild Card spots for the playoffs. Originally a plan in late 2011 called for four different conferences, but that appears to no longer be on the table.
The four divisions would be as follows:
Pacific: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Mid-West: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Central: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Atlantic: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
The main reason for the switch was to make everyone’s schedule a little more travel friendly. Winnipeg has been stuck in the East after taking over Atlanta’s franchise and Detroit and Columbus are Eastern Time Zone teams currently playing in the Western Conference. This new proposal would help a few squads log a lot less miles. The added bonus with this system is that every team would play the entire other conference once home and away.
As far as the playoffs are concerned, things will look quite a bit different. The top three teams in each division would earn playoff spots, and the final four post-season positions would be given to Wild Card teams who have the next two best remaining conference records.
The playoffs would be divisional and not conference to start. TSN.ca has a great breakdown here that explains how the four post-season rounds will work.
Looking at it from a Toronto Maple Leafs’ perspective, their division is not all that much different than the one they occupy now. The additions of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers shouldn’t be too much of a factor as typically when the Leafs visit the Sunshine State they have plenty of crowd support. Often times it sounds like a Toronto home game.
Detroit on the other hand will reunite a couple of old rivals from the Norris Division. Playing the Red Wings more frequently will be exciting for Leaf fans, but Detroit is always a tough squad to capture points from.
This proposal is not finalized yet as it still needs approval from the NHLPA and Board of Governors.