This is isn't the first time the NHL has realigned and it won't be the last. This realignment was rumoured to be happening for a few years. The two comments I heard from fans about a realignment were 1) Detroit and Columbus fans wanted to see their teams move to the Eastern Conference so they weren't up so late watching games being played in the west and 2) Hockey fans in the west wanted to see Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos play in their city every year not every 2 years!
Enter Realignment 2013-14 problems solved. With this design Detroit and Columbus are in the East and fans in the West can see their favourites from the East every year!
The one thing that hasn't changed is the fact that their are two conferences, the West and the East, but instead of 3 divisions in each conference their will be 2. Instead of having 5 teams in every division (30 teams, 6 divisions equals 5 teams a division) now there will be 7 teams in each division in the west and 8 teams in the divisions in the east.
Each team will play the teams in their division 4-5 times, a change from the 6 they play now. Then teams will play each team in their conference but other division 3 times a year down from the current 4 times. Then possibly the best part for say my editor Ricky who is a huge Buffalo Sabres fan but lives here in Vancouver is, Ricky will get to see Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville at Rogers Arena every year now if he likes not every 2 years!
Still an 82 games season and even though it looks like the travel time for teams is down the NHL claims travel is actually up 3%.
Now about playoffs. As we know now the top 8 teams in each conference make it into the playoffs. The top teams from each division get seeds 1,2 and 3 followed by the next 5 teams in places 4,5,6,,7 and 8. Seed 1 plays 8, 2 plays 7, 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5. Until the Stanley Cups Final round when the Western Conference winner plays the Eastern Conference winner.
Would it not be beneficial then if you played in the west because only 14 teams are completing for 8 spots whereas in the east 16 teams are playing for 8 spots. Answer: NO!
The way the NHL has designed the playoffs works like this. The top 3 teams from every division make the playoffs. That equals 6 teams. The last 2 spots will go to "wild card teams" which are the 2 teams with the most points regardless of division. Then to determine seeding the division winner with the most points in the conference will play the wild card team with the fewest points. The division winner in 2nd place will play the wild card team with more points. Then the teams who finish 2nd and 3rd in each division play each other.
Finally these divisions still need to be named! The NHL has suggested that names will be chosen based on geographical regions. Personally I think it would be fun to named the divisions based on hockey legends who had played in those areas. Example Wayne Gretzky started his career in Edmonton and ended it in Los Angeles so why not call Division A the Gretzky Division. Maurice Richard spent 18 years playing for the Montreal Canadiens and still gets talked about today why not call Division C the Maurice Division or you could call Division C the Howe Division on honour of the legend Gordie Howe. Tim Horton spent a portion of his career with the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins why not call Division D the Horton Division (and clearly offer free Tim Horton's coffee) and Division B could be the Esposito Division honouring former Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito! I think it sounds fun and a little history lesson as compared to Pacific West, Mid West, Mid East and Atlantic East which is the direction the NHL is heading.
And there you have it! It can get confusing but I will explain it all again at the start of next season in Hockey Talk with Courtney!