SUNRISE, Fla. | Let’s get radical.
The NHL Board of Governors on Monday approved a new league realignment that will be made up of four conferences, commissioner Gary Bettman announced.
The Washington Capitals will be reunited with old Patrick Division rivals the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The Carolina Hurricanes are the other team in the as-yet-to-be-named conference.
“We think it’s great for our fans that we’re back in that division again,” general manager George McPhee said. “Because it’s been historically a great division and our fans have always loved those rivalries.”
Said coach Dale Hunter: “That’s good. That’s a good situation. That’s good teams – it’ll be good competition.”
The full conferences are as follows:
Capitals, Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes
Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators, Bruins, Sabres, Lightning, Panthers
Red Wings, Blackhawks, Blues, Wild, Jets, Blue Jackets, Predators, Stars
Ducks, Sharks, Kings, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Avalanche, Coyotes
According to recent reports, every team will play at least five games against each conference rival (six for the two eight-team groupings) and then home-and-home with every other team.
The playoffs will feature intra-conference play for the first two rounds: Teams seeded No. 1 through No. 4, with 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 in each conference. Those teams will face off and four conference champions will emerge.
It is yet to be determined whether those conference champs will be re-seeded. General managers will make that determination later this season.
It will mean slightly less travel for most old Western Conference teams but more for teams from the Eastern Conference. But within the Caps’ division, no trip is that difficult.
“That’s perfect. But we’re lucky,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “That’s the nice thing about being out on the East Coast. West, that’s a tough side to play on.”
We will have more reaction from the Caps on Tuesday.