Change is weird. It grabs you from what you are comfortable with and see as normal and then thrusts you into a weird and unfamiliar situation. There will be plenty of the second in the NHL next season.
The NHL realignment is set to take effect next season. So there will be plenty of changes to team’s usuall travel plans. You have the Red Wings going east, the Jets coming west and a bunch of other small divisional shifts.
That is the easy part to grasp and can be memorized after a couple of minutes of looking at the new layout.
Now let’s talk about the playoffs, where things can get a little confusing come playoff time if you don’t fully understand it.
First off, It will still be the eight teams from both conference set up. Where things will change is the seating and installation of two wild card teams for both conferences.
So here is how it works. Each division will have three representatives make the playoffs no matter what. So in the West for example, the division winners from the Pacific and Central would be placed in first and second spots depending on point total. Then both the second and third place teams from both the Pacific and Central would have a spot as well.
Now here come the wild cards. So the next two teams with the highest point total would fill the wild card seeds, seems simple enough, until you getting into the actual matchups.
Here is where things get a little funky, so I am going to use the Western Conference’s new alignment and last season’s point totals to kind of map it out for you. I will base which team wins the series on who had the highest points.
Here we go.
So this is how things would have worked out last season had the realignment been in effect. The first round of the playoffs would have looked like this. (Please ignore my subpar graphic skills)
The first two rounds of the playoffs is mostly divisional play. You have the second and third place teams in each division automatically being paired against one another, while the division winners are placed against wild cards teams based on point totals. So, in last season’s case there would have been a swap, with the Coyotes facing the Blackhawks and Jets playing the Ducks. That is the only way a team can hop divisions in the first round.
Now on to the second round.
Basing the series winners off of point totals alone is no fun. It makes for a pretty generic playoffs but whatever. So this is how the second round would have looked. This worked out for the whole “divisional” idea of things. But an interesting little plot twist, and I’m sure it will happen sooner or later because that’s just how the playoffs work, is if an out of conference wild card team wins out.
How weird would it be if the Coyotes win the Central Division, or the Jets win the Pacific Division? It’ll be interesting to see how that works out.
Onto the Conference Final.
From here on out it is pretty familiar. You have the two division winners, even if they are not actually in that division faces off for the Conference title.
So there you have it. This exact format is going on over on the east coast. I mean it is pretty understandable once you see it and grasp the whole divisional and wild card thing.
So what do you think, would last season’s playoff had the same outcome had the realignment and new playoff structure been in place? That first round Kings and Canucks matchup would have been an entertaining one, and who knows maybe those fans in Winnipeg could have willed the Jets out of the first round.