New York, NY – NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr announced in a press release Thursday that the players' union wants to go forward with NHL realignment.
On Feb. 26, the NHL revealed a tweaked realignment plan, one which is based off a proposal which had been originally struck down by the NHLPA.
"After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season," Fehr said in a statement.
With the NHLPA signing off on the proposal, the next step will be getting approval from the NHL's Board of Governors. If approved, the new realignment plan will go into effect starting with the 2013-14 season.
The plan calls for four groupings based primarily on geographic proximity, split into Atlantic, Central, Midwest and Pacific Divisions, while retaining the names for both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The breakdown for the new divisions is expected to be:
- Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, the Islanders, Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington in the Atlantic.
- Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay in the Central.
- Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg in the Midwest.
- Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix for the Pacific.
An altered schedule matrix would see each team play teams in the other conference both home and away.
In the seven-team divisions, teams would play intraconference foes three times per season and five of the six intradivision foes five times a season. The sixth opponent within the division would be played four times. In the eight- team divisions, teams would play intraconference opponents three times and intradivision opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis.
One new wrinkle to the postseason would be the introduction of a wild card. Under the latest proposal, the top three teams in each of the four divisions will qualify for the postseason. The final four spots would go to the two teams in each conference with the next-best records. In theory, five teams from one division and just three from the other division in each respective conference could make the playoffs.
The BOG had voted to eliminate the two-conference, six-division model and implement a new format for the 2012-13 season in January of 2012, but significant opposition from the players' union plus the onset of the latest lockout in September tabled that discussion.
The original format called for four conferences -- two with eight teams and two with seven. The realignment would have allowed each team to play every other team at least twice every season, once at home and once on the road.
The top four teams in each conference would have made the playoffs and the first two postseason rounds would have been played within the conference, with the first-place team facing the fourth-place club and the second-place team playing the third-place team in the opening round.
The winners within the conference would then have battled each other in the second round and the four conference champions would have clashed in the third round, with the winners meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals.