NHL Realignment Fun: If the Season Ended Today

Now that we know the new realignment plan, I wanted to look at what kind of effects it would have on the league. Some people worry that there will be an increased likelihood that teams will become the victim of being in a tougher conference and will miss the playoffs to an inferior squad thanks to the four-conference look. Others worry that strong conferences will cannibalize themselves with the best matchups before the conference champions play the final two rounds.

NHL.com's Dave Lozo took a look at what the playoffs would have looked like with last year's standings.

Only one team that reached the postseason under the old format would be left out in the new one. The Los Angeles Kings and their 98 points would be bounced in favor of the Dallas Stars, who had 95 points but would have finished fourth in their conference. If that's a point of contention for fans, just remember that last season, the Stars and Flames finished with more points than the Rangers, yet sat home and watched the Rangers take part in the postseason.

Be sure to head on over and give his column a read. He makes a lot of good points and has a better visual on how the conferences would have shaken out. Lozo also has in his sidebar a quick look at how the playoff picture would look so far this year. The only issue is that he's going by NHL standings, which put points above all else. What I've done is broken down the standings to points percentages to get a better ranking.

Follow below the jump to see how the difference between current playoff seeding and what it would look like under the new system

Instead of taking NHL.com's standings, I've calculated each current team's percentage of possible points earned to rank them. Here's how the conferences look under that system. The playoff system still values division leaders over points percentage here, so the top three teams are the best in their respective divisions at points%. Tie-breaker comes to win% then ROW.
Rank Team Points% Team Points%
1 Boston 0.700 Minnesota 0.6851
2 NY Rangers 0.6875 Detroit 0.6600
3 Philadelphia 0.6600 San Jose 0.6304
4 Pittsburgh 0.6428 Chicago 0.6428
5 Florida 0.6296 Vancouver 0.5961
6 Toronto 0.5925 Dallas 0.5961
7 Buffalo 0.5576 St. Louis
8 Ottawa 0.5370 Phoenix
9 Washington 0.500 Los Angeles 0.5769
10 Winnipeg 0.500 Nashville 0.5384
11 New Jersey 0.500 Edmonton 0.5370
12 Montreal 0.500 Colorado 0.500
13 Tampa Bay 0.4615 Calgary 0.4615
14 NY Islanders 0.4375 Anaheim 0.3653
15 Carolina 0.3571 Columbus 0.3269

So if the season were to end today, the playoff matchups would look like this. As an added bonus, the number in parentheses next to the team's name equals that team's place in the overall NHL standings (1-30):

Eastern Conference Western Conference
Ottawa(19) vs. Boston(1) Phoenix(13) vs. Minnesota(3)
Buffalo(16) vs. NY Rangers(2) St. Louis(12) vs. Detroit(4)
Toronto(14) vs. Philadelphia (5) Dallas(11) vs. San Jose(8)
Florida(9) vs. Pittsburgh(6) Vancouver(10) vs. Chicago(7)

As you can see, there's a 19-seed in there, so the current playoff format screws over the 15th-rated Los Angeles Kings in favor of both Buffalo and Ottawa making the playoffs.

Now let's take a look at the current standings in the new conference formats (Conferences numbered randomly):

Rank Conference 1 Conference 2 Conference 3 Conference 4
1 San Jose Minnesota Boston NY Rangers
2 Vancouver Detroit Florida Philadelphia
3 Phoenix Chicago Toronto Pittsburgh
4 Los Angeles Dallas Buffalo Washington
5 Edmonton St. Louis
Ottawa New Jersey
6 Colorado Nashville Montreal NY Islanders
7 Calgary Winnipeg Tampa Bay Carolina
8 Anaheim Columbus

So the first-round playoff format would look like this (again, number in parentheses represents a team's overall rating 1-30 in the NHL)

Conference 1 Conference 2 Conference 3 Conference 4
Los Angeles(15) vs. San Jose(8) Dallas(11) vs. Minnesota(3) Buffalo(16) vs. Boston(1) Washington(20) vs. NY Rangers(2)
Phoenix(13) vs. Vancouver(10) Chicago(7) vs. Detroit(4) Toronto(14) vs. Florida(9) Pittsburgh(6) vs. Philadelphia(5)

This playoff matchup screws the 12th best team in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues, out of the postseason so the 20th-best Washington Capitals can have the honor of a first-round bow-out. Also, if this new playoff format stood with zero upsets, the Stanley Cup Semifinal matchups would have San Jose versus Boston and Minnesota versus the New York Rangers.

This would allow for a Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers, something that was not previously possible. However, is the fact that the 11th-best team in the league, which has two more wins than the worst team to make the playoffs fair? The current conference alignment seems to screw teams as well, but it has yet to drop a true 11-seed out of the postseason entirely.

What do you think?

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