It was rumoured for months and finally became official on Thursday: the Winnipeg Jets will be exiting the Southeast Division after this season and joining a division of clubs in their own time zone.
The National Hockey League’s board of governors approved realignment for the 2013-14 season and the decision will move the Jets – members of the Southeast as the Atlanta Thrashers and after the move north – into a yet-to-be-named division that includes the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. Only the Avalanche, who are in the mountain time zone, are not in the same time zone as Winnipeg.
"We’re very relieved, as much as we’ve enjoyed those trips down south, I think our team and our coaches are very pleased to know that we’re going to be playing in the central time zone," said Jets’ Chairman and owner Mark Chipman in a conference call on Thursday.
"The travel burden ought to be not as onerous and we also really look forward to establishing some rivalries close to home, particularly Minnesota, the great franchise that presides in Chicago. I think our fans are extremely excited about the prospect of playing those teams and a lot of great teams in that division that are very much on the rise in St. Louis, Nashville has been a great team over the years and is consistently strong and Dallas has got a good young team.
"It’s very exciting for us as an organization and for our fans to be geographically located where we ought to be. It looks like, from a league perspective, it’s solved a lot of issues so we’re very, very supportive of it."
The new format will mean that every team will play in each club’s building at least once in a season. Asked if the idea of having more Canadian teams in their division would have been appealing, Chipman said:
"That would have been great, but as a number of people have pointed out, there were a lot of objectives that we tried to achieve. We are going to play all the Canadian teams. But I think what we’ve learned in the last couple of years playing in the Southeast is our fans really like seeing all the teams. Having the (New York) Rangers in our building tonight is huge. Having seen (Sidney) Crosby in our building and all the premier teams coming through from the east has been impactful.
"It would have been nice, perhaps, to play Edmonton, Calgary more often. But we are going to play them. We’re going to play the Habs and the Leafs, Ottawa and Van and all those teams. Is it perfect? I don’t think anybody in the league would say it’s absolutely perfect. But as the commissioner said, we were trying to cover a lot of ground here and I think we’ve done that. The fact that we’re not seeing all the Canadian teams as often as we might have liked is a very reasonable compromise for us."
The new alignment
|Division A||Division B||Division C||Division D|
|Los Angeles||Minnesota||Florida||NY Islanders|
|San Jose||St. Louis||Ottawa||Philadelphia|
NEW REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE MATRIX
Western Conference (7-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 29 games
5 games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs. three teams) AND
4 games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
5 X 5 =25 games
1 X 4 = 4 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
3 X 7 = 21 games
Non-Conference: 32 games
2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
2 X 16 = 32 games
(Exception: one team from each division plays one less game inside Division and one more game inside Conference outside Division)
Eastern Conference (8-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 30 games
5 games vs. two teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. one team, 2 Home/3 Away vs. one team) AND 4 games vs. five teams (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
5 X 2 =10 games
4 X 5 = 20 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. four teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
3 X 8 = 24 games
Non-Conference: 28 games
2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
2 X 14 = 28 games
NEW STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FORMAT
Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three "seeds" in each Division).
The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as "Wild Cards," will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.
"Seeding" of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.
The Playoffs will proceed as follows:
#1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 -- winners play each other for berth in Conference Championship
Conference Finals -- Two advancing teams in the West and two advancing teams in the East meet in Conference Championship
Eastern and Western Conference Champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.
The National Hockey League Players' Association has given its consent to play under this new Alignment and Playoff System for a minimum of three seasons, through the 2015-16 NHL season.