The Nashville Predators will have a better chance to make the playoffs the next two seasons.
The NHL Players Association on Thursday approved a proposal from the league office for realignment, which would divide the NHL into two unequal conferences.
“After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season,” union executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement.
All that remains for the proposal to go into effect is approval from the NHL’s Board of Governors.
If that happens, as expected, beginning in 2013-14 Nashville will compete in the Midwest Division with six other teams, all based in the Central and Mountain time zones. Those teams would comprise half of the Western Conference with Pacific Division, seven teams in the Mountain and Western time zones.
The Eastern Conference would consist of two eight-team divisions.
Eight teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, which means that while Eastern Conference teams will have a 50 percent chance to reach the postseason, Western Conference teams, including the Predators, will have a 57 percent chance.
That disparity is of concern for the NHLPA.
The divisions under the realignment proposal would be as follows:
Midwest Division: Nashville, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis, Winnipeg.
Pacific Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver.
Atlantic Division: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
Central Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
The schedule under this format will allow for teams to play two games (one home, one away) each season with teams from the other conference.
Western Conference teams will play five of the other six teams in their division five times per season. They will ply the sixth team just four times. They will play the seven teams from the other division three times each.
"The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised Plan for Realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “Our next step will be to bring the proposed Plan for Realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant."