12/22/2006 10:51:08 AM
The NHL has been trying for weeks to tinker with its schedule configuration, but is now considering a significant overhaul of the face of the league that includes realignment and a reduction in the number of divisions from six to four.
Nothing is carved in stone at this point, but the NHL is floating an aggressive trial balloon to its governors for consideration. Earlier this week, six club executives, (a mix of governors, teams presidents and GMs), representing the six current divisions met in New York with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and brainstormed to produce a new-look alignment and schedule that they're taking back to other clubs in their respective divisions for feedback.
If there's enough support for it - 20 of the 30 governors would have to approve it - the changes that would take effect next season could be approved at a board meeting during the NHL All-Star Game festivities in Dallas in late January.
Sources tell TSN the proposal includes the following:
1. A reduction in the number of divisions from six to four. There would still be an Eastern Conference and a Western Conference, but there were would one eight-team division and one seven-team division in each conference.
2. The top two teams in each division would be guaranteed the top four playoff seeds within the conference with four wild card playoff berths going to the teams with the next highest point totals.
3. The four new divisions would be configured primarily along the lines of time zones. The theory is not only would this benefit teams in terms of travel, but could also boost TV ratings because game times in the same time zone would be more favorable.
4. The current Northeast Division (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Boston) would remain intact and add two other teams to form a seven-team division. Sources say Pittsburgh is one of those teams that would join the Northeast teams.
5. The current Atlantic Division (the three New York area teams plus Philadelphia) would be melded together with four teams from the current Southeast Division (all but one of Washington, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida).
6. The eight-team division in the Western Conference would feature all teams in Pacific or Mountain time zones (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix).
7. The seven-team division in the Western Conference would feature teams that are in either the Central or Eastern time zones.
8. As for the schedule, it is said to be a little more complicated than it currently is, because of the uneven number of teams in the divisions, but each team will apparently play its division rivals six times each and its conference rivals either three or four times each and non-conference teams once each.