NHL set for realignment next season
League will retain two conferences, but reduce from six divisions to four
The NHL's Board of Governors approved the realignment plan proposed last week.
The new four-division plan, featuring a new-look set-up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will go into effect next season.
The NHL and NHLPA each had input into the plan to realign the League into a more geographically appropriate two-conference, four-division format that features 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are moving to the Eastern Conference to provide them the ability to play the majority of their games against teams in the same time zone. The Winnipeg Jets are moving to the Western Conference for the same reason.
The Dallas Stars are staying in the Western Conference, but moving into a division that includes five other teams from the Central time zone.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added as a new wrinkle.
The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for berths in the Conference Championship series.
The two divisional champions in each conference will then play in the conference finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
The divisions will be temporarily referred to as Division A, Division B, Division C and Division D. Permanent names will be assigned later.
The Western Conference will house Division A and Division B, while Division C and D will consist of eight teams each and make up the Eastern Conference.
Division A is the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.
Division B features the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
Division C has four Original Six franchises: Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning are also in the division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals will join the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in Division D.
The new alignment ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once per season.
The National Hockey League Players' Association has given its consent to play under the new Alignment and Playoff System for a minimum of three seasons, through the 2015-16 NHL season.
The new alignment: