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NHL Realignment Gives the League a New Layout in 2013-14

NHL realignment changes the standings, the schedule and the playoff race.


NHL realignment means a new look and a different schedule as of 2013-14.

You'll also be looking at the NHL standings in a whole new way.

Plus there's a new twist in the playoff race, and changes in how teams are ranked for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Under the changes agreed to by the NHL and NHL Players' Association, the Eastern and Western Conferences remain.

But each conference will now contain two divisions instead of three.

Here's how it looks (with divisions to be named at a later date):

Western Conference

Division A: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

Division B: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.

Eastern Conference

Division C: Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Division D: Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The realignment replaces the two conference-six division format in use since 1993.

So how will your NHL look different in 2013-14?

A few points to ponder:

Three Teams Switch Sides

Three NHL teams switch conferences: the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets join the East, while the Winnipeg Jets move West.

An Unbalanced League

Arguing that the new set-up is more "geographically appropriate," the NHL has placed 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still begin with 16 teams, eight from each conference.

So reaching the playoffs will be a little bit tougher in the East.

30 Teams in 30 Arenas Every Year

For the first time since 1997-98, every NHL team will visit every other team at least once per season.

Here's how the schedule plays out for teams in the Western Conference:

  • 29 games within the Division
  • 21 games within the Conference (non-division opponents)
  • 32 games against Eastern Conference teams

For the Eastern Conference, the numbers are slightly different:

  • 30 games within the Division
  • 24 games within the Conference (non-division opponents)
  • 28 games against Western Conference teams
The "Wild Card" Playoff Race

The top three teams in each division are the first 12 teams to qualify for the playoffs. (Six in each conference.)

The remaining spots go to "wild card" teams: the two highest finishers in each Conference, regardless of division.

That makes eight playoff qualifiers in each Conference, with the possibility of up to five playoff teams from one division.

The Playoff Format

Wild card teams are seeded seventh and eighth in each Conference.

Division winners are seeded first and second in each Conference, and meet the wild card teams in the opening round of the playoffs. (1-versus-8 and 2-versus-7.)

Teams finishing second and third in each Division play the first round of the playoffs within the Division.

The winners of each series play for berths in the Conference Championship series.

The two divisional champions in each conference play the Conference Finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Trial Period

The new alignment will be re-evaluated by the NHL and NHLPA following the 2015-16 season.

See also: A History of NHL Divisions and Conferences: Alignment and realignment since 1917.

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