NHL: League approves "time-zone friendly" realignment plan
(Reuters) - The National Hockey League's (NHL) Board of Governors have approved a realignment plan, starting next season.
The realignment features a more geographically friendly setup, a new playoff format and the promise of more intense rivalries.
The plan, to be re-evaluated by the NHL and NHL Players' Association after the 2015-16 campaign, realigns the league into a two-conference, four-division format, featuring 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.
"The new alignment will place several clubs in more geographically appropriate groupings and will intensify already-fierce rivalries throughout the league," the NHL said in a statement on Thursday.
The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will move to the Eastern Conference while the Winnipeg Jets jump to the Western Conference.
The Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche will remain in the Western Conference but play in divisions the NHL said were "more geographically appropriate and time-zone friendly."
The realignment plan also ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season.
The Stanley Cup playoffs will still consist of 16 teams but the NHL is introducing a wild-card system.
Under the new format, the first 12 postseason berths go to the top three finishers in each division while remaining playoff spots in each conference, designated as "wild cards," will go to the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference.
The NHL currently has six divisions across two conferences where division winners are seeded 1-3 for the playoffs based on their point records. The next five teams with the best records in the conference are seeded 4-8.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden)