The current NHL structure may be getting a major facelift.
According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, some changes have been made to the NHL’s proposed realignment system.
Friedman joined the Hotstove Tonight panel on Saturday night, and said that the revamped realignment proposal was presented to all the individual teams this past week, while the players have yet to get a look at it.
In order for it to go through, both the NHL Board of Governors and National Hockey League Players’ Association have to approve it.
Last year’s proposed realignment — that was blocked by the NHLPA — included four different conferences, with eight teams per in the West and seven in the East. That would be opposed to the current six-division, two-conference system for the 30 NHL teams.
However, Friedman says the most intriguing alterations to the new format may involve two clubs, in particular.
“There have been changes [to the proposal],” said Friedman. “And the most interesting ones are to help satisfy Columbus and Detroit, who wanted to move into the Eastern time zones. All 16 of the Eastern teams are going to be in two separate conferences.”
Should the Blue Jackets and Red Wings shift from the West to the East, they would likely benefit from a more manageable travel schedule.
It also means the East would now have two eight-team conferences, while the West will have two seven-squad conferences.
In addition, the new strategy may help rekindle Original Six rivalries. One of the proposed conferences will include Boston, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal, according to Friedman. Other teams would be Ottawa, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida.
The other proposed conference in the East would encompass Columbus, Carolina, New Jersey, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.
To even out the structure, some shifting had to be done on the Western side.
“To help balance it out, Colorado, which was initially supposed to be in that conference four group with seven other teams, they’re moving one area over so there’s six teams in that more central conference,” explained Friedman.
On the “Western” side, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg would be in the same seven-team conference, while Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Phoenix and Los Angeles would also share a conference.
Friedman also said another idea that’s being tossed around involves a way to even out the playoff format in the two bigger conferences.
“Now the other thing that’s being talked about is a potential wild card for those two conferences of eight teams,” said Friedman. “That’s the players’ biggest concern. They want there to be a more even chance in those two larger conferences, and I think they’re working on some sort of wild card.”
While the potential wild card format hasn’t been worked out, Hockey Night in Canada’s Glenn Healy thinks it would be beneficial for a couple of reasons.
“The wild card is great for the players because that’s revenue and they’re going to get half of that money,” said Healy. "The other big thing, you talk about revenue, playoff rivalries, I mean having Detroit play Toronto; they haven’t played since the 90’s, it is all good news.”