New set-up would keep teams closer to home

Updated: December 24, 2006, 12:45 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NHL has floated the idea of realigning its six current divisions into four, mainly aligned with time zones, according to a story on TSN of Canada's Web site.

Scott Burnside's take
Scott Burnside
The plan to realign the divisions is ludicrous when given the problems facing the NHL, Scott Burnside writes.

According to the report, six club executives met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman this week to consider potential plans. They're taking ideas from those talks back to their teams, TSN reported.

Among the ideas:

• Reducing the current six divisions to four, with two in the Eastern Conference and two in the Western Conference. There would be one eight-team division and one seven-team division in each conference.

• The top two finishers in each division would be guaranteed the top four playoff seeds. The four other playoff qualifiers in each conference would be based on point totals.

• The Northeast Division -- which includes Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Boston -- would remain intact and add two other teams to form a seven-team division. Pittsburgh is one of those teams that would join the Northeast, sources told TSN.

• The current Atlantic Division (the three New York-area teams plus Philadelphia) would join the four teams from the current Southeast Division (all but one of Washington, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida).

• The eight-team division in the Western Conference would feature all teams in Pacific or Mountain time zones (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix).

• The seven-team division in the Western Conference would feature teams that are in either the Central or Eastern time zones.

The NHL is considering the changes to help with travel and to keep televised games in the same time zones to maximize ratings.