The Board Of Governors has approved of the new NHL Realignment Plan that was proposed a week ago.
The plan was brought to attention after the Winnipeg Jets relocated from Atlanta last season. The relocation of the franchise created travel difficulty for the teams in the division, especially the Jets who had to constantly travel to Florida, Carolina, and Washington.
Along with the realignment comes with a new-look Stanley Cup Playoffs. The playoffs will consist of 16 teams, eight from the West, eight from the East. The top three teams of each division will be guaranteed a playoff spot, the following two teams will obtain a spot based on the next teams that have the most points during the regular season, regardless of division.
Along with this new realignment, it is required that every team plays one game in all 30 stadiums.
The new plan moves Detroit and Columbus into the East, and Winnipeg into the West. Here is what the divisions will look like:
Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and the Vancouver Canucks.
Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and the Winnipeg Jets.
Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Washington Capitals.
Now a few questions result from this realignment. First is, why does the Western Conference have two less teams than the East? Another question is, does this mean the NHL is looking to expand the league by adding two more teams to the West? If they do add two more teams, where would they end up?
Let’s look at a few options for expansion of the NHL.
The first and most likely scenario would be Kansas City. Kansas City already had a team from 1974-76 before moving to Colorado, and then what is now the New Jersey Devils. Kansas City already has a vacant arena that was being built back when the Pittsburgh Penguins were contemplating relocation.
The next city is Seattle. Seattle has been looked at as a suitor for an NHL team for quite some time now. The Phoenix Coyotes have been said to look into relocating to the Northwestern city. Also, the NBA’s Sacremento Kings franchise is relocating to Seattle. This creates more potential for Seattle to welcome an NHL team into its city.
Other possible cities include Las Vegas, San Antonio, Houston, and Toronto could possibly get another team.
The alignment tried to best suit the teams and their locations while accommodating rivalries and traditions.