New York, NY – The NHL will have a new look next season, as the league's Board of Governors has approved the realignment plan proposed last month.
The NHL Players Association gave it the green light last week and the Board's favorable nod will put the plan into effect for the 2013-14 campaign.
In late February, the NHL revealed a tweaked realignment idea, one which is based off a proposal that had been originally struck down by the NHLPA.
The plan calls for four groupings based primarily on geographic proximity, split into four divisions, while retaining the names for both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, the Islanders, Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington will play in one division within the Eastern Conference, while the East's other division will feature Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay.
One division in the Western Conference will include Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg, while the other will consist of Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Detroit and Columbus will move from the Western Conference to the East, while Winnipeg will move from the Eastern Conference to the West.
The Stanley Cup playoffs will still feature eight teams from each conference, but a wild card system will also be in place. The top three teams from each division will qualify, along with two wild cards -- the teams with the two highest point totals, regardless of division.
One division can therefore send five teams to the playoffs and the other only three. The division winner with the most points will face the wild card team with the fewest points and the division winner with the second-most points will take on the other wild card team. The teams finishing second and third in a division will face each other in the first round.
Those winners will then meet in the next round of the divisional playoffs before advancing to the conference finals. The conference winners will then square off for the Stanley Cup.
Permanent names for the divisions will be assigned at a later date, although reports previously had indicated the divisions would be called Atlantic, Central, Midwest and Pacific.
In the seven-team divisions, teams would play non-divisional conference foes three times per season and five of the six divisional opponents five times a season. The sixth opponent within the division would be played four times.
The eight-team divisions would feature teams playing non-divisional conference foes three times and divisional opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis.
Teams will play non-conference opposition twice each year, once home and once away.
The new plan allows each team to play once a season in every NHL arena for the first time since 1997-98.