NHL season set: Red Wings will play in ‘Central’ division

Here’s what to know ahead of new NHL season

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Tyler Bertuzzi #59 of the Detroit Red Wings waits for the face-off during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on February 11, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) (Timothy T Ludwig, 2020 Getty Images)

The NHL officially announced Sunday that the 2020-21 season will begin Jan. 13.

56-game season

Teams will play a 56-game season in four realigned divisions. They will play their entire regular season schedule within their division. In the Red Wings’ case, that means we will end up seeing the Chicago Blackhawks eight times. Amazing (see the full divisions below).

Again, this is set to begin Jan. 13 with it ending May 8.

There will be no preseason.

Team schedules are pending.

Playoffs change a little

The top four teams from each division will make the playoffs, a change from the top three making the playoffs with two wild card spots in each conference scenario that we have become accustomed to since 2013.

That means we’re looking at a return to the 16-team tournament with four rounds of best-of-seven rounds. The first two rounds will be intradivisional with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. The four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their points total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3) -- I really like that.

So, notice that means there really aren’t “conferences.” This is kind of interesting. Personally, I like the intradivisional matchups. It definitely makes sense to keep the first two playoff rounds within the divisions this year. With the seeding by points in the third round, it makes sense that there are no conferences. I am guessing the Campbells and Wales trophies will be awarded according to ... ? Unclear. Perhaps those trophies won’t be awarded this year.

As for the wild card spots disappearing ... this could get interesting. I think we might see some lopsided results among the divisions. I honestly don’t know what to expect when teams are playing each other this frequently in the regular season. This is a super exciting scenario right now, and let’s leave it at that.

The new divisions

The divisions look like this with new names East, West, North and a modified Central:

East: Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Central: Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, Nashville, Tampa

West: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas

🇨🇦 North: All seven Canadian teams

Games at home arenas

The NHL said it plans to have each team play games at their home arena. Whether the arena has fans will be up to local jurisdictions. Things can change as the season progresses. However:

“But depending on prevailing conditions, the NHL will be prepared to play games in one or more neutral venues per division should it become necessary,” reads the league’s statement. “The NHL and NHLPA have had to adjust to government regulations at all levels, from restrictions at the Canada-United States border to local limits on gatherings, and the coronavirus situation in each of the markets for the 31 NHL teams. The agreement includes health and safety protocols.”

Taxi squads

Because the NHL won’t have a minor league system to draw on due to the American Hockey League pushing its start to Feb. 5, teams will be allowed “taxi squads.” NHL teams will continue with 23-player rosters with the addition of up to four to six players.

Key dates for the 2020-21 NHL season:

  • Dec. 28 -- Waivers period begin
  • Dec. 31 -- Non-playoffs teams’ (didn’t make the 2020 playoffs) training camp begins
  • Jan. 3 -- Training camp starts for all teams
  • Jan. 13 -- Season starts
  • Feb. 1 -- Teams can start requesting players waive NMC for expansion draft purposes
  • April 12 -- Trade deadline
  • May 8 -- Season ends
  • May 11 -- Playoffs begin
  • July 15 -- Last possible day for the playoffs
  • 24 hours after end of playoffs -- Player buyout period begins
  • July 21 -- Expansion draft for Seattle Kraken
  • July 23-24 -- NHL Entry Draft
  • July 28 -- Free agency begins

Red Wings roster

The Red Wings -- and all teams -- will be allowed 36 players at training camp. Again, they’ll have to trim that to a 23-player roster before the season (remember there are no preseason games) with the addition of up to four to six players.

In the case of the Red Wings, training camp could be wild. We’re looking at a team with a long list of players who are trying to pry their way into a NHL lineup. Can you imagine the ferocity at training camp with so many young players working to make this team?

There will be at least one goalie required on the tax squad. Should we see 22-year-old goalie Filip Larsson in net at some point? What about 2017 first-round draft pick Michael Rasmussen? He just put up 18 points in 18 games in the Austrian league. Will defenseman Gustav Lindstrom be part of this?

I can’t wait to see what this taxi squad looks like. Mathias Bromé, the Swedish league goal scorer who Steve Yzerman signed to a one-year deal in April, is apparently making the trip to North America now. The 26-year-old left wing has 20 points in 23 games with Orebo this season.

This is what the roster could look like if the team started playing tomorrow:


  • Line 1: LW Tyler Bertuzzi, C Dylan Larkin, RW Anthony Mantha
  • Line 2: LW Robby Fabbri, C Vladislav Namestnikov, RW Bobby Ryan
  • Line 3: LW Sam Gagner, C Valtteri Filppula, RW Filip Zadina
  • Line 4: LW Darren Helm, C Luke Glendening, RW Adam Erne

Defensive pairings:

  1. LD Patrik Nemeth, RD Filip Hronek
  2. LD Dan DeKeyser, RD Troy Stecher
  3. LD Marc Staal, RD Jon Merrill


Like I said, aside from the goalies, there is so much potential for this to look very, very different after training camp.

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About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.