As we wrote over the weekend (and have been saying since the summer), Monday was the day that the realignment discussion became real. And it took the NHL Board of Governors less than two hours to accept a new plan that will radically change how the NHL landscape is put together.
But what does it look like? And how are the Blackhawks impacted? Here’s the details.
To make the new conferences simple, here is what they’ll look like:
Simply put, the Blackhawks and their fans are huge winners in this new alignment. The great rivalries with Detroit and St. Louis stay intact, and great old rivalries with Minnesota (both the Wild and the one-time North Stars in Dallas) and Winnipeg stay in play.
Here are some key parts to the actual schedule from NHL.com:
The new alignment also enables the NHL to create a balanced schedule in which all teams will play each other at least twice every season, once at home and once on the road, giving fans a chance to see every team and superstar in the League. The remaining games will be played within the conferences.
In the seven-team Conferences, teams would play six times — three home, three away — for a total of 36 inter-division games. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis — for a total of 38 inter-division games.
The teams in the seven-team Conferences will have 46 out-of-conference games, including 23 at home and 23 on the road. The teams in the eight-team Conferences will have 44 out-of-conference games evenly split between home and away.
Looking at the postseason, old school hockey fans will be excited with the return of divisional playoffs. The top four teams in each conference will make the postseason, and will play each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Once the final four teams are determined, there could be a re-seeding of the teams to determine the match-ups for the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Yes, there is a real chance that the Blackhawks could meet a team that is currently in the Western Conference in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.