NHL introduces new division names with schedule
The release of the 2013-14 regular-season schedule Friday included the debut of the four new division names for the re-aligned National Hockey League.
The League went to a re-aligned format for geographic purposes and has decided to stick with geographic names for the four new divisions. Three of the four names are carryovers from the old six-division alignment, but the League added a new name to the mix.
The four division names are Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific. The Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions make up the Eastern Conference and each division has eight teams. The Central and Pacific divisions make up the Western Conference and have seven teams in each division.
The Atlantic Division teams are: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Red Wings have moved from the Western Conference to the East.
The Metropolitan Division teams include the three New York-area teams, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils; along with the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are joining the Red Wings in the move east.
The new Central Division in the Western Conference features Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets, who are moving from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference.
The new Pacific Division in the Western Conference includes Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
The 2013-14 schedule ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once during the season.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight from each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added.
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference -- regardless of division -- based on regular-season points. It will be possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined by regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for berths in the conference championship series.
The winners of the conference championships advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
The League's 1,230-game schedule will pause from Feb. 9-25, 2014, while NHL players comprise the majority of the rosters of the national teams competing in Sochi for Olympic gold. The NHL season resumes Wednesday, Feb. 26 with a slate of four games.
Effective this season, the NHL will operate under a new divisional alignment and scheduling matrix that ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season. In creating more geographically-appropriate groupings, the NHL now has two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference:
|WESTERN CONFERENCE||EASTERN CONFERENCE|
|Pacific Division||Central Division||
|Los Angeles||Minnesota||NY Islanders||Florida|
|San Jose||St. Louis||Philadelphia||Ottawa|
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
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have a new division-based 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. The League will play under this new alignment and playoff system for a minimum of three seasons, through the 2015-16 NHL season.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer