July 31, 2015


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NHL to consider radical realignment

PEBBLE BEACH - Major change could be in the cards for the NHL today and while most agree a radical move is best for the league there's no guarantee members will be able to set aside individual agendas for the good of the whole.

The league's board of governors is meeting today and tomorrow with realignment the No. 1 topic on the agenda.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

CP

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

The Winnipeg Jets, currently playing in the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference must be moved to a more palatable geographic home. The switch could be as simple as the Jets heading to the Western Conference's Central Division with either the Detroit Red Wings or Columbus Blue Jackets heading to the Eastern Conference.

What is viewed by many as the best solution for the league, however, is a move to four new geographic conferences with a new playoff format and a schedule matrix that includes a home-and-home series that would see each all teams play each other at least twice a season.

This option would see the league divided into four new conferences, two with eight teams and two with seven teams.

The conferences would be geographically constructed and the Jets would join, let's call it the Central Conference, a grouping with the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Blue Jackets and Wings.

This format would also include a change in the playoffs with the top four teams in each conference qualifying for the post-season and then playing off against each other until a conference champion is determined.

The four conference champs would then meet in the semifinals.

Teams in the East are reluctant to accept such a proposition as it would increase their travel and alter prime broadcast schedules.

"I think everybody should accept a little bit of a burden to do what's right for the league instead of just saying, 'Well, this benefits us as an Eastern team because we don't want to travel,'" San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told Yahoo Sports this week. "To me, sometimes what has to be done for everybody needs to be presented, and I think that's what Gary (Bettman) is trying to look at.

"Put aside your personal interests for a second. What's truly the right thing to do?"

Any vote for realignment would need two thirds, or 20 votes, to carry. The meetings are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. today and conclude on Tuesday.

Here's a look at what the new conferences could potentially look like:

Conference A

Boston

Buffalo

Florida

Montreal

Ottawa

Tampa Bay

Toronto

Conference B

Carolina

New Jersey

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

Washington

Conference C

Anaheim

Calgary

Colorado

Edmonton

Los Angeles

Phoenix

San Jose

Vancouver

Conference D

Chicago

Columbus

Dallas

Detroit

Minnesota

Nashville

St. Louis

Winnipeg

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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