NEW YORK — The Detroit Red Wings finally got their wish and are moving to the Eastern Conference next season as part of the NHL’s realignment plan.
The NHL’s Board of Governors officially approved the new realignment and Stanley Cup Playoffs format that will be in effect for at least the next three seasons beginning with the 2013-2014 season. The realignment
plan creates two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference. The names of the divisions will be formalized at a later date.
The Red Wings will join a division that includes Original Six rivals Toronto, Montreal, and Boston. While they will lose a division rival in Chicago, Red Wings fans will still get a chance to the see the Blackhawks in person thanks to the new scheduling matrix that ensures all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season.
The Eastern Conference’s two divisions will be divided as such:
- Division A: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
- Division B: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
The Western Conference’s two divisions will be divided as such:
- Division C: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
- Division D: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
The NHL also approved a new playoff format. Starting next season, the top three teams in each division will qualify as the top 12 seeds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They will also be the first three seeds in each division as the first two rounds will serve as Divisional Playoffs. The final four spots, two in each conference, will be wild cards and filled by the next two teams with the most points in each conference regardless of division.
“Seeding” of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.
The Playoffs will proceed as follows:
- #1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 — winners play each other for berth in Conference Championship
- Conference Finals — Two advancing teams in the West and two advancing teams in the East meet in Conference Championship.
- Eastern and Western Conference Champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.
The National Hockey League Players’ Association has given its consent to play under this new Alignment and Playoff System for a minimum of three seasons, through the 2015-16 NHL season.