The National Hockey League (NHL) has adjusted its conferences for the 2013-2014 Season. The Conferences will now have two divisons each instead of the current three. However, due to how the alignment has been made, the ‘new’ Eastern Conference will have 16 teams while the ‘new’ Western Conference will only have 14 teams. The four divisions currently do not have any names, only letters.
The NHL Conferences will look as follows:
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
The top three finishers in each division will make it to the playoffs. The final two playoff positions will be determined based on the overall record of the fourth and fifth placed teams in each division. There are two options for playoff competition:
1) The top three finishers, plus either the fourth placed team in the conference, or the fifth place team of the other division should that team have the better record, would play each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs before facing the winner of the other division for the conference title.
2) The teams would be seeded from 1-8 within their Conference as they do now.
The names of the divisions have yet to be named. Prior to the move to six divisions, the league called their four divisions: Adams, Norris, Patrick, and Smythe. The NHL could go back to those four names.
The realignment still has its issues. The first one is obvious: the Eastern Conference has 16 teams, compared to only 14 in the Western Conference. This means that it is statisically harder to get into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The other is not as obvious. Should a team be located, realignment may have to occur again. For example, there has been talk of the Phoenix Coyotes moving to another city such as Seattle or Quebec City. Seattle would allow the team to stay in its current division. A move to a city like Quebec City would cause an alignment issue – either the team would have to play in the Eastern time zone while playing mainly Pacific and Mountain time zone teams (such as is the problem up until the end of this season with the Winnipeg Jets), or they would have to move divisions. This would leave eight teams in one division, and only six in another. This will create a headache for the NHL to resolve as it maens realigning up to three teams to balance out the divisions.
In all, this is a nice move, up it could all have been resolved easier if the NHL had done a much easier realignment which I have written about earlier, where the NHL would simply have swapped the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Let’s hope everything works out with this realignment.