COLUMBUS OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Columbus Blue Jackets players come out onto the ice to congratulate goaltender David LeNeveu #31 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after Columbus defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shoot out on September 28 2010 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
The NHL's realignment plan has the 30 teams dividing up into four conferences. It aims to reduce travel and promote geographic balance, so Blue Jackets fans appear reasonably pleased.
The NHL's Board of Governors voted on Monday night to approve a new four-conference setup that is set to begin with the 2012-13 season. The four-conference setup will replace the current one, which is comprised of six divisions and two conferences.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently play in the Central Division along with the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators, will instead be a part of a "conference" with the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Blues, Predators and a couple additional teams: the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets. So while the conferences have not yet been named, Columbus will remain in as familiar a place as possible to where they are now considering all of the changes.
So, what are the other changes? Every team will play every other team outside its conference twice -- once home, once away, and every team will also play every other team in its conference either five or six times. The idea is to create a more geographically logical schedule, and it appears to work.
Although the playoffs seem far off in the distance for the Blue Jackets today, it's worth knowing how the playoffs will be structured for when Columbus finds its groove.
According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the top four teams in each conference will advance to the postseason. After that, the first two rounds of the playoffs will be intra-coference. There will be four conference champions, each of whom will advance to a final four. The four teams will be re-seeded based on regular season results, with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 playing No. 3, with the winners meeting in the Stanley Cup Final.
Before this new setup is made official, the league and NHLPA have to reach an agreement. There's no reason to expect this plan won't go forward, though, so expect this to be the new setup for next season (via Raw Charge):