NHL overhaul will put Canes in a new conference

NHL's major overhaul will keep only Washington from old division with Carolina

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 6, 2011 

  • Proposed for 2012-2013 season

    Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

    Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

    Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Ottawa.

    Conference D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.

    Source: NHL

The Carolina Hurricanes' days in the NHL's Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference are coming to an end.

The NHL's board of governors on Monday approved a major realignment that will divide the league into four conferences beginning with the 2012-13 season, ending the two-conference, six-division setup.

Two of the geographically-based conferences will have seven teams - including the Hurricanes' - and two will have eight teams.

The Hurricanes' conference will be made up of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. Only the Caps are in the Southeast Division with the Canes.

"This is a good conference for us," Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday night from Calgary, Alberta. "We are with teams we have historically done well with our fans in terms of attendance.

"From the Hurricanes' point of view, it makes a lot of sense. Obviously we're in a conference with very good teams. This business goes in cycles and we're having a very down year, but if we stick with it we can build our team back up and compete against the top teams."

Under the format, the Canes would play each conference team six times in the regular season, meaning big draws such as the Pens and Flyers will play at the RBC Center three times. They also will have home-and-home games with the other 23 teams in the league, assuring a home game each season with teams such as the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

The Stanley Cup playoffs will continue to have 16 teams, with four teams advancing from each conference and the first two rounds played within a conference. The conference winners will be seeded one through four according to their total points, and an East-versus-West Stanley Cup finals apparently will not be assured.

Rutherford said he and Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland favored expanding the playoffs to 20 teams.

"The league said that if we (teams) had any ideas, to let them know," Rutherford said. Holland "and I threw that into the suggestion box, so to speak, but there was not much discussion. Realignment itself is too big an issue for now."

The board of governors, the meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman to proceed with the realignment. Bettman next will get input from the NHL Players Association.

Realignment became a hot-button topic after the Atlanta Thrashers, from the Southeast Division, relocated to Winnipeg as the Jets this season. Realignment should help ease the travel expense for Western-based teams.

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