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NHLPA signs off on realignment; will ‘re-evaluate’ after 2014-15 season

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Since the National Hockey League’s realignment plan leaked last month, the National Hockey League Players Association has been collecting feedback from its membership.

Some of the Eastern Conference players didn’t like competing in a 16-team playoff field. Some of the Western Conference players, and the Floridian teams, didn’t like the extending travel of the new divisions. Many players were weary of the new divisional playoff format.

On Thursday, the NHLPA signed off on realignment, with one caveat.

Via Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA:

“After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season.”

So four divisions, with 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the West beginning next season and then for the following season.

Are you happy with realignment?

Here’s what it’ll look like:

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Via TSN, a reminder of the playoff format:

The playoff format calls for the top three teams in each division to earn post-season berths. The remaining four spots would go to wild-card teams, the top two records remaining in each conference. That means there's a possibility five teams make it from one division and only three from another.

It would be divisional playoffs, not conference playoffs, so 1 vs. 4, 2 vs 3 in the first round. The two fourth seeds would be made up of the wild-card teams. The top division winner based on regular-season points in the standings would face off against the lower-ranked wild-card team. The other division winner would play the higher-ranked wild-card.

First-round winners then meet in second round in the division championship; Third round sees Pacific winner vs. Mid-West winner in Western Conference finals; Central winner versus Atlantic winner in Eastern Conference finals; Eastern and Western Conference champions meet in Stanley Cup finals.

As we've said before: No issues with the geographic realignment they've gone with, despite the fact that a straight up Columbus Blue Jackets for Winnipeg Jets swap would have sufficed. But like the NHLPA, we'd like to see how the playoff format goes.

Anyhoo, congrats to the Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets on their successful realignment. Better luck next time, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Oh, and does this mean expansion by 2016? Because we bet it does.

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