As first reported by Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman and then ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the National Hockey League is proposing a new realignment plan. In the proposal, the League would shift from six divisions to four.
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings would move to the Eastern Conference, while the Winnipeg Jets would move to the West.
In the proposed realignment plan, the Western Conference's Pacific and Midwest Divisions would hold seven teams each. The Eastern Conference's Central and Atlantic Divisions would have eight.
According to NHL.com:
"In the seven-team divisions, teams would play intraconference foes three times per season and five of the six intradivision foes five times a season. The sixth opponent within the division would be played four times. In the eight-team divisions, teams would play intraconference opponents three times and intradivision opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis."
Teams would be guaranteed two meetings per season with opponents in the other conference, both home and away.
The Edmonton Oilers would be in the Western Conference's Pacific Division, along with the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks; the Midwest Division would consist of the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
Over in the East, the Central Division would be the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs; the Atlantic Division would include the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
The Top 3 teams in each division would automatically qualify for the playoffs, while the remaining four spots would be awarded to wild-card teams who possess the next-best record in their conference, regardless of which division they're in. This scenario has been proposed to solve the unbalanced, 16-14 split in the conferences.
As a result, it's possible that five teams from one division could qualify for the playoffs while only three from the other make it.
In order to take effect for the 2013-14 season, the plan needs to be approved by the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) and the League's Board of Governors.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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