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NHL Realignment: Get Ready For The Radical New Changes In Hockey Conferences And Divisions
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NHL Realignment: Get Ready for the Radical New Changes In Hockey Conferences And Divisions

The NHL Board of Governors have finalized their plan for league realignment. Now, that plan is in the hands of League Commissioner Gary Bettman as well as representatives of the NHL Player's Association (NHLPA). Once there has been a change to review the proposed plan by the representatives of the players, the announcement will be made and the daunting task of creating new schedules will begin. Bettman is considering whether those changes are realistic for the next season. That discussion was held in Pebble Beach, California and only lasted roughly an hour. Voting for the new plan was largely accepted with twenty six votes for and four against.

The new conferences will be arranged to allow the teams to have better physical proximity to help reduce travel time and expense but will also keep in mind some of the long established rivalries in the league. The North East division will consist of current Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins as well as both teams from Florida, the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also in the division will be the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Atlanta Division will consist of the Carolina Hurricanes, the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals.

The Central division will gain one Canadian team, the Winnipeg Jets, formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers. That division also includes the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Dallas Stars, the Minnesota Wild, the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues. The remaining west coast and Canadian teams will be in the last division.

The new schedule will have each team playing outside of their conference twice a year. The conferences have either seven or eight teams each and will have schedules that will allow more time spent on developing serious rivalries. The eight team divisions will require more scheduling creativity, with three of the teams playing each other six times and the others playing five times. That schedule will be reversed at the end of each season. The top four teams for each division will make it into the playoffs.

The rumor mill had Detroit going to the Eastern Conference, moving into a division with more highly skilled teams. Currently, the Red Wings sit in a division that many call too soft, with the exception of the Blackhawks.


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