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NHL approves four-conference realignment scheme

Dec 5, 2011, 10:06 PM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

After “about an hour” of discussion, the NHL’s Board of Governors approved a radical new four-conference realignment setup by a vote of 26-4. (It must be noted that it won’t be implemented until Gary Bettman meets with the NHLPA.)

First things first, let’s take a look at which teams will end up in each conference starting in the 2012-13 season, according to the NHL. (Note: the conferences haven’t been named yet, so I’ll just assign a number for each at the moment.)

Conference “1”: Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes.

Conference “2”: Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild.

Conference “3”: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

Conference “4”:  Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.

Are you more of a “visual learner”? Check out this handy map of the conferences via Cassie McClellan of Raw Charge.


Of course, the biggest question is how it will affect the playoffs. The NHL’s release explains that the top four teams in each conference will be seeded based on total points, with the first seed against the fourth and the second versus the third. After that, the conference winners will face off in the final four. (In other words, there will still be 16 teams in the postseason, even if the playoffs will be very different.)

As far as how things go in the last two rounds (once the conference winners are determined), TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that process will be determined during a future meeting in March.

Another key thing to remember is that non-divisional opponents will see each other at least twice per season, with each team receiving a home game. Here’s how the in-division scheduling will pan out, then:

  • Franchises in the seven-team conferences will play against each other six times, with three road and three home games.
  • Franchises in the eight-team conferences will play each other “five or six times in a season on a rotating basis,” with three teams battling it out six times and four teams doing so on five occasions. That process will flip-flop the following season, so the teams that played each other five times will switch to six and vice versa.

Consider these bits the “meat and potatoes.” Feel free to share your opinions on these changes and stay tuned for more from PHT.

  1. contraryguy - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    Thanks for the infographic. It covers the teams that you left out of the text lists.

    Nice to see Conference 3 take into account all those wintering Canadians in FL.

  2. sharksfan754 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    Tampa and Florida in the same conference as Montreal, Ottawa, Boston and buffalo? That’s terrible

  3. somekat - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    If they were going to put Tampa and Florida in with the Canada teams, they should of left Carolina there. Put either Buffalo (less sense) or Boston (more sense) and it would basically be mid-atlantic + Pittsburgh.

  4. finfan88shark - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    The playoff format is a little absurd because you now will not only play a team 6 times during the regular season, put possibly 7 more times in the playoffs for a total of 13 times. Makes much more sense to keep the format the same way it is now. Seems to me there is no real advantage to finishing first in the conference. Add in the fact that as a fan I might end of seeing my team play another team 13 times in the same season……….boring.

    On a side note you left two teams out of Conference A, it should be San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Colorado.

    • Jason Brough - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:53 PM

      Thanks finfan. Colorado and Phoenix have been added and James is cleaning out his locker as we speak.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:04 AM

      How is that any different than what they have now? San Jose/Los Angeles presumably played 6 times during the regular season then had a 6 game playoff series. Washington/Tampa presumably played 6 times during the regular season and met in the conference semi finals. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. I am willing to bet that happened when teams were playing each other 8 times a year after the lockout.

      There is an advantage to finishing first in your conference because you then get to play the #4 seed in your conference. Your team could be resting it’s players for the playoffs after having clinched a playoff spot long before the #4 seed would. For all you know, they could have been playing their final game of the season for a playoff spot, while your rest your whole team.

      This is far from boring, it’s going to make conference games more valuable. Your gonna have a senario where 4 teams will be battling for 3 spots, 1 with home ice in the first round and 1 missing the playoff all together.

    • tednancy - Dec 7, 2011 at 2:09 AM

      Boring? How about “Awesome,” and, “Something the NHL should have done a long time ago?”

      More intra-conference games means more bad blood. It means grittier playoff matchups that build not only on regular season rivalries, but on previous playoff matchups.

      It is now like it was in the 80s and 90s, when you had to fight your way out of your own division to get to the Cup. When year-after-year rivals had to face each other in the playoffs with everything on the line. Look back at those playoff matchups during those years: super-intense local-rivalries playing out on the big stage year-in, year-out.

      Anyone who disagrees with realignment should have their head examined, or else never got to appreciate the NHL playoffs when they were the greatest postseason in all of sports.

      It’s about to start again, and I am ecstatic.

  5. stakex - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:23 PM


    There was no need for this kind of realignment. Simply swaping Detroit and the Jets would have been fine. But nooooooo. Yet again we see major changes to the NHL with nothing but $$$ in mind.

    • nhlbruins90 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:30 PM

      It’s a profit-making enterprise. Get used to it.

      • stakex - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:33 PM

        I understand that, but making drastic changes to the game for the sole purpose of making more money isn’t the best way to keep fans. Sure, this move might not be a horrible thing in the end… but its the pattern of making drastic changes for money that worries me more then the change itself.

      • nhlbruins90 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:36 PM

        I understand, but in spite of all that, I think the game is better today than ever. Not perfect, but it’s keeps me entertained.

    • comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:49 PM

      Nah, it should have been Columbus.

  6. icelovinbrotha215 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    Yea, the only conference that seems somewhat awkward is Conference 3. As a Flyers fan, I like that the ATL division was kept in tact and we got the ‘Canes and Caps. Both make for good TV.

  7. bcisleman - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    From the Islanders’ POV, we have the same division / conference w/ Carolina and Washington thrown in–so the divisional rivalries are maintained.

  8. sharksfan754 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    Also two eight team conferences in the west and two seven team conferences in the east is weird

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:32 AM

      hello, expansion?

      your fooling your naive self if you don’t thik the 30 owners want to split an expansion fee…twice. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      • comeonnowguys - Dec 6, 2011 at 9:11 AM

        They have enough franchises struggling to get by as it is.

      • cmutimmah - Dec 6, 2011 at 10:11 AM

        Contraction would be more likely… for example, Phoenix and Columbus… all 7 team conferences then…

  9. nhlbruins90 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    I like it.

    The Fla teams in the northeast conference makes perfect sense. Lots of Canadian and New England snowbirds and retirees live there and still have roots up north. It’s only a 3 hour hop by air. The players certainly won’t mind getting some extra time on the links in the dead of winter.

    • eyecorporations - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:58 PM

      I was thinking I didn’t like the FL teams in the NE conference but you make a good point, it’s really not that bad and it makes sense overall.

    • comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:51 PM

      That, and they didn’t want to break up the NYR/NYI/NJD. And you can’t break up NJD/PHI, and you certainly can’t break up PHI/PIT.

      So you have the cookie, and the creamy center. Or the bun, and the meat. Or the callgirls, and the Charlie Sheen.

  10. beerjunkie - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    I actually like it. Good job NHL.

  11. sknut - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    I like the new playoff system it should build during the season and produce some dramtic moments. It is a bit odd with Fla and TB in their conference but they did solve Det and Nashville travel concerns and the Wild’s TV times situation. Its not perfect but its intriguing and out of the box.

    • finfan88shark - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:30 PM

      Sknut, Don’t know about you, but the possibility of playing Phoenix 13 times in one season is just not exciting to me.

      • cmutimmah - Dec 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM

        Phoenix is a good team recently, and don’t worry, they are moving cities soon anywhy, so they may end up in a 7 team division, or even stay in yours but be the Vegas Bunny Ranchers by then…

  12. finfan88shark - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    Bettman in this picture looks like he was just in a meeting with Sidney Crosby.

  13. greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    Looks great

  14. greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    Wouldn’t it make sense to have conference 1 vs 2 and 3 vs 4 for the right to play for the Cup?

  15. Jeff - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    I like this solution a lot.

  16. hockeyfan1701 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    This works well………………………………Until Phoenix moves…………

    • bigtull - Dec 6, 2011 at 7:05 PM

      Phoenix moves to Quebec City and you have an 8 team conference in the East and a seven team conference in the West. Don’t look difficult to me.

  17. trbowman - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    This is an absolute nightmare. I expected it to be terrible and it was somehow worse.

    Please, someone pinch me.

  18. sknut - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    @finfan88 I hear you and that is tough to get around but I view it as by the time of the playoffs start I would forget those games from early in the year. I just like the thought of deep divsion rivals.

  19. atwatercrushesokoye - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    There’s talk about reseeding after the second round but I don’t think that makes sense. 3 teams could win their second round series in 4 games but if the fourth series goes to 7 games then none of the 3 teams can make proper preparations.

    What I think more sense would be for them to rotate it, conference 1 plays 2 one year, the next they’d play conference 3 etc.

    How will this plan change when Phoenix decides where they’re moving next year?

  20. greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    Conference 1 = Gretzky Conference
    Conference 2 = Hull Conference
    Conference 3 = Roy Conference
    Conference 4 = Lemieux Conferenc

    • comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:53 PM

      Why not bring back the original division names?

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:37 AM

        Your right, I was caught up in the moment being a Wild fan with real divisional rivals just hitting me. Hell yeah, bring back the Smythe, Norris, Adams, and Patrick!!!!

    • itsallniceonice - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:59 PM

      Why the hell would you name Conference 3 Roy when you have Orr to name it after?

    • nhlbruins90 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:17 AM

      Naming things after living people just seems weird. Ok, a street here or there, but not something like this. Bring back some of the original names. Less generic = good.

      • comeonnowguys - Dec 6, 2011 at 9:12 AM

        Not to mention, ask Paterno how that Big Ten trophy is going for him.

    • bigtull - Dec 6, 2011 at 6:47 PM

      Change Roy to Howe or Dryden if you want to keep it a goalie.

  21. MadDog Rickles - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    HELL NO!

  22. kiopta1 - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    Yeah no complaints here as a wings fan.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:35 AM

      wow, an intelligent Wings fan… says the bitter divisional rival Wild fan

  23. bak72 - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    Thank You, NHL. We finally will have rivalries like they were in the early 80’s, where no quarter was asked or given. And the fan bases will learn to dislike each and every team in the Conference that their team plays in.

    The plus for me is that now I can dislike the Pennsylvania teams and the New York teams while supporting my favorite team to win that conference. A win/win in my book.

  24. danphipps01 - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    I… don’t hate this? Huh. I’ll be damned. The weird thing is pegging the Florida squads where they are, but I guess the only other option would involve breaking up at least one geographical rivalry. And it’s not hard time-zone wise, so I guess it’s fine. Weird. Rarely am I genuinely fairly impressed with major NHL decisions.

  25. greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    To show how great this playoff format will be using last years final standings:

    Conference A:
    Vancouver 117 points
    San Jose 105 points
    Anaheim 99 points
    Phoenix 99 points
    Los Angeles 98 points
    Calgary 94 points
    Colorado 68 points
    Edmonton 62 points

    wow, 98 points and you miss the playoffs. Even Calgary would still have had a fighting chance going down the stretch run.
    Vancouver vs Phoenix and San Jose vs Anaheim.

    Conference B:
    Detroit 104 points
    Nashville 99 points
    Chicago 97 points
    Dallas 95 points
    St. Louis 87 points
    Minnesota 86 points
    Columbus 81 points
    Winnipeg 80 points

    Kind of a runaway, but Dallas who finished last in the Pacific would have made the playoffs
    Detroit vs Dallas and Nashville vs Chicago.

    Conference C:
    Boston 103 points
    Tampa Bay 103 points
    Montreal 96 points
    Buffalo 96 points
    Toronto 85 points
    Ottawa 74 points
    Florida 72 points

    The 4 playoffs teams were clearly established, but Boston and Tampa (both idenitical records) would be battling for home ice in the first two rounds and Montreal and Buffalo fighting each other for a chance at home ice in the second round if they both pull upsets.
    Boston vs Buffalo and Tampa Bay vs Montreal

    Washington 107 points
    Philadelphia 106 points
    Pittsburgh 106 points
    NY Rangers 93 points
    Carolina 91 points
    New Jerseys 81 points
    NY Islanders 73 points

    1 points seperates home ice thoughtout the first two rounds and playing the lesser team or going on the road to play your first round series. Even NY Rangers barely made the playoffs by 2 points over Carolina.
    Washington vs NY Rangers and Philadelphia vs Pittsburgh

    Those are some very close playoff races and some very good first round playoff series. Most of these playoff matchups will be better than most 1 vs 8 or even 2 vs 7 series.

    Even in the second round you could have Chicago vs Detroit or Boston vs Tampa Bay (both matchups have been Conference Final matchups the past 2 years).

    Aftter a brutal playoff series, and let’s be honest, they can be nasty the longer they go. You play them 7 games this year and then see them 6 times the follow year not to mention possibility of meeting again the playoffs the follow year. That is how rivalries are formed.

    For you doubters, this is gonna be fun to watch not only down the regular season stretch but the playoffs.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:40 AM

      Even in Conference B 4 points make up who gets home ice in the first round and who plays the division champion. oooooooh this is gonna be fun

  26. rainyday56 - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:44 AM

    Now that only 3 or 4 teams per conference miss the playoffs, perhaps it is time to do away with OT and the extra point?

    • nhlbruins90 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:33 AM

      As much as purists may hate the OT and SO, for entertainment value, it can’t be beat. Nobody walks away from a shootout feeling they didn’t get their money’s worth. The extra point, maybe they can do away with that.

      • dadawg77 - Dec 6, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        It is as easy as 3-2-1

  27. islandersfan - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    Love the concept love most of the choices, only change I would’ve made would be Min/Win from Div 2 to Div 3 in exchange for Fla/TB

    Having TB way down south by themselves just makes little to no sense, putting them in Div 2 keeps the geographical size of Div 2 about the same as it is (just edges SE a bit) and makes Div 3 much more cenrtalized

    • cshearing - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:04 AM

      It’s about timezones moreso than geography. Air travel is pretty fast no matter what. It is the changing timezones that affect the players most.

      In other words, your idea is horrible. :)

      • kopy - Dec 6, 2011 at 9:14 AM

        Not just players, but fans. My Wild haven’t had a road game in their own time zone yet this season. This new alignment is a godsend. Playing Dallas, Win, St. Louis, Chicago, etc., I don’t have to watch the puck drop at 9 PM like in Vancouver.

  28. donttouchthedirtypenny - Dec 6, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    Smythe, Norris, Adams, Patrick.

    • comeonnowguys - Dec 6, 2011 at 11:45 AM

      It’s such common sense, it probably won’t happen.

  29. hockeyfan9170 - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    I would of liked to see Toronto in with Detroit and Nashville in with the Florida teams. That would give them a city closer to them. Det and Tor was fun to watch in the 80’s.

  30. bigtull - Dec 6, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    This can’t be Bettman’s idea, it had to come from The Blackhawks or Toronto Maple Leafs because it makes too much sense. I even get the Florida teams being with the Northern teams because of all the snowbirds in Florida for the winter.

  31. buffalomafia - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Why not Buffalo, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Boston, Pitt, Philly?

    Quebec & KC are next expansion teams!

  32. buffalomafia - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Why 4 divisions? Just have 2 16 team conferences?

  33. klownboy - Dec 7, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    I am loving this move. At least the NHL will be talked about in the US again…

  34. lpramsden - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    See here for an article discussion some of these issues in-depth. Overall, a good move by the NHL, but not without its problems. NHL Realignment – Good and Bad

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