Realignment of the NHL's 30 teams is all but official for next season, needing only the approval of the players and the Board of Governors, explains Gregg Patton.
League realignment a shift in the right direction for the NHL
Realignment of the NHL's 30 teams is all but official for next season, needing only the approval of the players and the Board of Governors.
The new, four-division league corrects some geographical oddities from the old format that schoolchildren could have fixed, and improves the accuracy of play-off seedings.
It's such an obvious upgrade that you wonder why it took more than a year to tweak it into place.
Of course, change always comes on bumpy ice in the NHL.
The owners voted for something close to this new look in December 2011 - consolidating the six divisions to four and approving a system that placed the top four teams from each division in the post-season. The players let it be known they preferred the top three spots be automatic play-off qualifiers, plus two wild cards - the two teams with the next most points from each division. Now, the two wild cards from each conference could be the Nos 4 and 5 teams from the same division.
The owners' original plan also had left Detroit and Columbus, teams in the Eastern time zone, in the three-hours-later Western Conference, which made for some very late nights for Red Wings and Blue Jackets fans watching games in California.
The new format moves those two into the Eastern Conference, and also, wisely, switches Winnipeg west. The only inequity is that there will be 16 Eastern teams, 14 Western.
It wouldn't be the NHL if it were perfect.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE