What NHL realignment means for the Maple Leafs

Gary BettmanIt was inevitable after the Atlanta Thrashers packed up and moved to Winnipeg, but yesterday the NHL Board of Governors approved the first drastic realignment since 1992-93, which saw the league go from four divisions to two conferences.

Commissioner Gary Bettman had allegedly been working this for a while which made this quick approval a possibility. Here’s a breakdown of the changes:

New NHL Conferences (image: NHL.com)  What’s new?

  • Teams will play in four conferences instead of two
  • Each conference will consist of seven or eight teams
  • Each team will play one home/away game with non-conference teams
  • The rest of the games will be versus inter-conference teams
  • Better travel situations for many teams (especially those in the Western Conference)

For the Leafs, the team won’t be seeing much change. The biggest is probably more trips to Florida, now that the Panthers and Lightning are in the conference. Other than that, it’s essentially the Northeast Division, which means those rivalries will be more important.

With the playoff format the top four teams from each conference will make it through. Those four teams would then face off against each other in the first and second round, so it should make for some intense hockey.

One thing I would have liked was for the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Rangers to be in our conference. The “Original Six” (+ Ottawa & Buffalo) in one group would be great, though I’m sure it wouldn’t have much play for many American markets.

What do you think of the new setup and do you have any changes you wish they’d made or kept the same?

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