Despite intense debate across the hockey landscape and apparent overwhelming opposition from the East, the NHL Board of Governors has elected to radically realign the NHL into four conferences and completely change the season schedule as well. Official word just came down from Pebble Beach per multiple sources, saying that the decision was made in less than an hour by the BOG.
We are still waiting official word on the actual conference alignment and what these changes mean for the postseason, but for now rejoice that the NHL has made a great decision and moved teams to where the geographically belong. No word on what teams have actually moved where, although we're just going to go ahead and guess that the Dallas Stars will be in the "central" division.
Goodbye, Pacific Division. Hello, whatever the new one is called.
I'm going to have a full story on all this up in the morning, as it's been a very long day, but here are the details that we know for certain:
** Dallas will be in a division with Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Winnipeg and Nashville.
** 26 teams voted in favor. 4 teams voted against. Care to guess which ones?
** The NHL will adapt a home-and-home schedule for every team not in each team's "conference". This will allow better balanced scheduling and fans can see every team in the league once each season.
** The "West" will have two 8-team conferences and the "East" will have two 7-team conferences. Either this sets up for a West team to eventually move East (like Nashville, Detroit or Columbus) and likely will depend on what happens with the Phoenix Coyotes.
** The playoff format is still uncertain but this we know: the top four in each conference will face each other in the first round of the playoffs. How re-seeding will be done after that will be determined at the GM meetings in March -- whether it's a complete reseeding or whether it's still "East vs. West".
** Dirk Hoag has average distances for each team from their divisional opponents here. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning average over 1,000 miles from each of their division opponents. The Dallas Stars average 846.