When the next NHL season starts, the Winnipeg Jets are getting some new division-mates. The previously proposed realignment plan was approved by the Board of Governors today and now the Jets will go over to the second Western Conference division, which has no official name right now but is referred to as Division B.
Division B spans pretty much the entire midsection of America, encompassing the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild in addition to the Jets. Because of the lockout schedule, the Jets haven’t seen any of these teams this year and won’t, so they’re not very familiar foes. But hey, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien will see their old team more often now.
This move does help the Jets play more games in the Central time zone, which is their ‘home’ time zone, and is also why the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are heading east. It also gives Winnipeg a slightly better chance of making the playoffs simply because the two western divisions have seven teams and the two eastern ones have eight apiece. The odds are in the West’s favor.
How will a typical Jets season look starting next year? Get ready, it’s going to be a little confusing at first. They will play 29 games within the division: five games versus five teams and four games versus one of the teams. For the teams playing five times, that’s a split of three home and two away games versus two teams and the other way around for the other three teams. For that four-game team, that’s an even two-game split each way. The teams rotate every year.
Inside the Western Conference, they’ll play three games versus each team, splitting into a two home and two away series versus four of them and the other way around for the other three. That rotates too.
Against the Eastern Conference, they’ll play two games against each team, a home-and-home for all of them. There is an exception: one team from each western division will play one fewer game inside the division, but within the conference.
Speaking of the playoffs, the top three teams in each of the four divisions will make up the first 12 teams to go to the playoffs. Then, the other four slots will be filled up by wild-card teams, the next two highest-ranked ones in each conference no matter what division.
This is how things will look for a minimum of three seasons, although the NHLPA and the league have agreed to re-evaluate the scheme after that time to see if it’s still working or needs tweaking.
If it sounds confusing right now, that’s because it is. Perhaps the only way to really see how it works is to watch it in action.