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New Winnipeg team to play one more season in Tampa Bay Lightning's division; realignment talks to take place next season

VANCOUVER — Commissioner Gary Bettman believes the league will adopt a more balanced schedule when the relocated Winnipeg franchise likely moves to the Western Conference in 2012.

In his annual state-of-the-league address Wednesday, Bettman confirmed the relocated Thrashers will play a final season in the Southeast Division with the Lightning in 2011-12 and likely move to the West after that. That shift will set off several dominoes of realignment. Columbus, Nashville and Detroit are among the candidates to move to the East.

The league will examine realignment concerns and possibilities in the first half of next season, Bettman said. The result will be a more balanced schedule, he said, perhaps closer to the NBA model, in which every team plays at least once in every arena almost every season. The NHL went to an unbalanced schedule several years ago in an attempt to bolster geographical rivalries, but Bettman has heard from teams eager to see all teams in their arenas.

New discipline chief: Colin Campbell is turning over that league job to former All-Star Brendan Shanahan as the NHL looks at additional ways to crack down on rough play and dangerous hits. Shanahan, who began working for the league in December 2009 shortly after retiring, will head a new department of player safety dedicated to creating new rules and disciplinary concepts. He will administer fines and suspensions.

"It's a job that needs fresh eyes, a fresh look," said Campbell, who did it for 13 years. He came under increased scrutiny this season for two main reasons: what many thought were inconsistent rulings in similar cases and leaked e-mails involving his son Gregory, a Bruins forward, that implied he was asking for favorable rulings from others in cases involving Gregory's teams (he spent the past six seasons with the Panthers). Campbell denied that and said he was just being a "hockey dad."

Campbell has always removed himself from rulings involving his son's teams. For the Stanley Cup final, vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy is in charge of discipline. Campbell will remain with the hockey operations department.

"I thank (Campbell) for the chance to have a positive impact on … hockey," Shanahan said. Campbell cracked: "He won't be thanking me next year."

Panthers: Former player Kevin Dineen was named coach, replacing fired Pete DeBoer. This is Dineen's first NHL head coaching job. He spent the past six seasons as coach of AHL Portland.

New Winnipeg team to play one more season in Tampa Bay Lightning's division; realignment talks to take place next season 06/02/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2011 1:30am]
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