The NHL’s Board of Governors approved a new four-conference format for the league beginning in 2012-13, with two conferences of seven teams and two conferences of eight teams.
Every team in the NHL will play home-and-home; the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin inside each conference, with the top four teams squaring off in divisional playoffs.
The new plan tried to address as many concerns of the teams as possible, from creating more equitable travel, to preserving rivalries, to promoting the game by having the biggest stars play in every city every season.
The new tentative conference format looks like this ….
Conference A Ducks Flames Rockies Oilers Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes Jose Sharks
Chicago Blackhawks Blue Jackets Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild Predators Louis Blues
Conference C Bruins
Buffalo Sabres Panthers Canadiens
Ottawa Senators Bay Lightning Maple Leafs D Hurricanes Devils Islanders Rangers
Washington Capitals new format will increase overall travel in the regular season, especially for Eastern Conference teams who will now have more trips West. But it cuts down on travel for some Western teams, which was a critical issue for teams such as Detroit, Dallas, Columbus and Nashville.
The new look has two conferences with seven teams all based in the Eastern time zone: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina in one, and Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay in the other.
In the seven-team conferences, teams would play six times — three home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the following season.
The tentative playoff format is easy to follow and very regional rivalry friendly. The top four teams in each conference will play to determine a conference champion with the conference winners squaring off to play for the Stanley Cup. The final playoff format will be determined by the Board of Governors at the spring meetings.
Conference playoff matchups should be blood-soaked knife fights with matchups like Boston/Montreal, Philadelphia/Pittsburg, Chicago/Detroit, Calgary/Edmonton plus the LA and NY area teams meeting in the conference semis and finals.