NHL governors approve realignment; Pens to play in 8-team division
TORONTO — Ray Shero is looking forward to a new-look NHL.
Realignment, approved by the Board of Governors on Thursday, will begin next season and extend through at least 2015-16, commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Shero's Penguins will play in one of two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference. Joining the Penguins are current Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia, New Jersey and the New York Rangers and Islanders, and also Washington, Carolina and Columbus.
“Selfish -wise, I love staying in the East, and from a travel standpoint it works great,” Shero said, adding his management of the Penguins' roster will not change because of the realignment that restores a divisional playoff format for the first time since 1993.
The Penguins' longest in-division trip is around 500 miles (Raleigh, N.C.), or about 90 minutes by charter plane.
Only 14 clubs will make up the Western Conference, though eight teams from each conference will qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The other eight-club Eastern division will feature Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Florida and Detroit, which will join Columbus in moving into the Eastern Conference.
“There are some real good teams presently in this conference, and (our) division is packed,” Shero said. “Even teams that today might not be playoff teams — that changes pretty quickly. Look at Montreal. Last year (the Canadiens) were 15th, and now they are first.”
The NHL Players' Association consented to the realignment plan March 7, though the union and league will re-evaluate it after two seasons.
Realignment became necessary when Atlanta relocated to Winnipeg for last season, Bettman said. Winnipeg is currently playing in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit, an Original Six franchise located in the Eastern time zone, had long lobbied for a move from the Western Conference. Columbus is another Eastern time-zone club that has played in the Western Conference.
Winnipeg will join a division that also includes Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis. The other Western Conference division is made up of Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
The NHL likely will realign again if it expands from 30 to 32 clubs, but Bettman said “we'll deal with possible relocation and expansion if and when we find ourselves in those processes.”
Names for the new divisions are to be determined, and it will be easy for fans to identify club location, Bettman said.
Clubs will play at least four games against division opponents during the 82-game regular season. All clubs will play each other at least once at home and once on the road.
Shero said he favors fans in each Western Conference city getting an annual chance to see the stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins.
“Sometimes they've gone two or three years without seeing those guys,” Shero said. “So, I think that (part of realignment) is great.”
The NHL has not played a full schedule that placed every team in an opposing city at least once since the 1997-98 season.
The top three clubs in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs, and remaining clubs with the two best overall records will earn wild-card slots.
The league will go back to a divisional playoff format. Division winners will play a wild-card club, with the second- and third-place teams facing off in Round 1.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Penguins GM Rutherford not counting on Dupuis’ return
- Penguins acquire defensemen Lovejoy, Cole in deadline deals
- Rangers up ante in Metropolitan Division with trade acquisitions
- Penguins notebook: ‘Skill practice’ part of optional workout
- Penguins notebook: Pouliot dazzles in victory over Blue Jackets
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Finding perfect pairing for Ehrhoff key for Penguins
- Penguins eye move for former center Staal
- Baby Penguins notebook: Goalie Murray on historic run of success
- Winnik impresses Penguins in first workout