On Dec. 5, the NHL Board of Governors approved a new league conference alignment and playoff structure to help solve the problems of division placement for a handful of teams, including the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and especially the Winnipeg Jets, who are still playing in the Eastern Conference after relocating from Atlanta.
Under the new system, there would be no east/west conferences, but rather four conferences consisting of seven to eight teams based on geography.
In addition to re-alignment, the NHL would alter its playoff structure to have the top-four teams in each of its four new conferences play each other in the first two rounds, with the top seed playing the fourth, and the two winners playing in the second round to play out. Then the four conferences winners would re-seed, with the two winners advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.
Under that format, the league could see some interesting match-ups in the third and fourth rounds, as there is no more Eastern and Western Conferences.
All that was nixed last night following the news that the NHLPA failed to approve the changes by yesterday’s deadline.
“We believe the union acted unreasonably in violation of the league’s rights,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a statement. “We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.”
According to the NY Daily News, the NHLPA had two major concerns following the changes: increased travel and the uneven chances of qualifying the playoffs based on the size of each conference.
Since an agreement was not brokered, the NHL’s divisions and conferences will remain for 2012-13, meaning the Red Wings and Blue Jackets are stuck in the West, the Stars are trapped in the Pacific division playing most of its games two-hours late and the Jets are still in the Southeast, some several thousand miles away from MTS Centre.
I’m pretty bummed about this. I was looking forward to the change, mostly for the playoff system. I think having the first two rounds be just divisional is fantastic. Some people would argue that it would get stale with the same teams meeting each other, but I disagree some of the matchups would get stale.
I didn’t mention it above, but I was also kind of excited for a balanced schedule with the Western teams, but only playing the Maple Leafs, Bruins and Canadiens twice a year was kind of upsetting, so in that regard I was against the plan.
As someone — I think Joe Micheletti — mentioned, this isn’t good news for the CBA talks coming up this summer. The player’s association played hardball with re-alignment and will surely play hardball in labor talks.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia