Starting next season, the NHL will be transformed from a league with six divisions to one with four conferences, pending approval from the players' association. There will be two conferences with eight teams and two conferences with seven teams, which is similar to what the NHL landscape looked like before the 1993-94 season.
The top-four teams from each conference will make the playoffs. The concept of finishing in the top 8 has gone by the way side. Instead, beating the six or seven other teams within your conference and cracking the top 4 within that group becomes paramount.
But all of that won't take effect until next season. So what would the standings have looked like at the end of last season if the new system was already implemented? Let's take a look:
|x-San Jose 105
||x-Tampa Bay 103
||x-N.Y. Rangers 93
|Los Angeles 98
||ST. LOUIS 87
||New Jersey 81
||N.Y. Islanders 74
In the new format, teams will play about half of their games within their conferences, so this is obviously not how the points would have been distributed. But it's fun to see how everything would shake out.
Under the new four-conference format, the NHL will have a new look next season. We've looked at what the League would've looked like last season under realignment, but what would it look like through nearly 30 games of the season? Let's take a look and see who the top-four teams are as of today in each conference.
x-Los Angeles 30
x-San Jose 29
x-St. Louis 31
Tampa Bay 24
x-N.Y. Rangers 33
New Jersey 25
N.Y. Islanders 21
-- Dave Lozo
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.
What are some of last season's highlights that wouldn't have a chance at happening under the current one? The conference finals between the Canucks and Sharks and the Bruins and Lightning would be impossible. Instead, they would have to meet in the second round for the right to advance to the League semifinals.
The Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Canucks remains a possibility, but if the higher-seeded teams advanced through the first two rounds, the semifinals would have an entirely new look.
With teams being re-seeded after two rounds, the Canucks would play host to the Bruins one round earlier while the Capitals and Red Wings would meet in the other semifinal. The new conference alignment has the potential to breed matchups that would have been impossible otherwise.
There still would have been drama on the final weekend of the season, too.
The Rangers had to wait to see if the Hurricanes would win their last game and snag the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference last year, and that would've been the case in this conference setup, too. But the Stars wouldn't have been in position to eliminate the Blackhawks. Instead, both teams would have cemented playoff berths long before the final days of the season.
There wouldn't have been much in the way of a fight for a playoff spot in Conference C, either, but the loaded Conference A would've been really interesting. The Coyotes would have to hold off both the Kings and Flames.
There would have been one extremely interesting playoff matchup last year that wouldn't have happened otherwise if this was the format. The Red Wings and Mike Modano
would have faced the future Hall-of-Famer's former team, the Stars, in the first round of the playoffs.
The Capitals and Rangers, who seemingly meet every year in the postseason under the current format, still would be first-round combatants under the new one. The other seven first-round matchups of last season wouldn't have happened under realignment.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo