The NHL Board of Governors passed a four-conference realignment yesterday, a move which drastically changes the outlook of the NHL.
The Rangers conference will include the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. It's good to see all the old rivalries will still be around, and the addition of both Washington and Carolina makes sense geographically (which was one of the main driving forces behind the plan in the first place).
The playoff scenario -- which hasn't been completely ironed out yet aside from the top four teams from each conference making them -- will also be interesting as well. Making the playoffs will be harder with the conference containing at least five contenders for a playoff spot (at least from recent history).
Join me after the jump for more.
But the rivalries remain, which is important, and something that will keep the emotions around the division as high as they have ever been. I've always been a fan of the Atlantic Division's games because there is a real rivalry with every one of those teams. That stays the same under these circumstances.
Washington also gets added into the mix, which is a good thing as well. The Rangers and Capitals have a rivalry of their own brewing, thanks to all the losses in the playoffs to Washington, so those matchups shouldn't miss a beat either.
Carolina seems to be the odd man out here, however. There's no real rivalry with any of the "old" Atlantic Division teams (unless you count Rangers fans hatred of Eric Staal) and there aren't any friendly faces aside from Washington.
In the end, there's not too much change for the Rangers. Making the playoffs will be a more difficult task, but it comes with the territory of a difficult conference.
PLAYOFFS: The big question is how the playoffs will work. According to Bettman, here's how things will go:
- As we mentioned, the top four teams in each conference will advance to the postseason.
- From that point, the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be intra-conference.
- There will be four conference champions, each of whom will advance to a final four.
- The four teams will likely be reseeded based on regular season results, with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 playing No. 3. The winners will meet in the Stanley Cup Final. It's also possible that the two eight-team conferences will meet and that the two seven-team conferences will meet, with the winner playing in the Final. Bettman said the general managers will decide this.