It is official. The NHL Board of Governors approved the realignment, which will go into place next season. The NHL and NHLPA agreed to a two-conference, four-division format. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets move to the Eastern Conference and the Winnipeg Jets move to the Western Conference. This will provide them with an opportunity to play teams in their own time zone and keep the travel to a minimum.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs face a change too. Each conference will have eight teams, but it will be division based. They also added a wild-card system:
“The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while another sends three.
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.”
Names will be given later, but for now the divisions are A and B in the west and C and D in the east.
A: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks
B: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets
C: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadians, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leaf
D: Carolina Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
All 30 teams will play each other in the full season. Dan Rosen broke it down at NHL.com.
This does mean Chicago is the only Original Six team in the west, and it ends the almost 100-year rivalry between Chicago and Detroit. However, it does put Detroit in the same division as Montreal, Toronto, and Boston–three of the Original Six. The New York Rangers are the other Original Six team. This will reunite Detroit and Toronto and renew their old rivalry before Toronto moved to the east in 1998.