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A hypothetical glance at realignment changes

by Dave Lozo
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:

Conference A Conference B Conference C Conference D
x-Vancouver 117 x-Detroit 104 x-Boston 103 x-Washington 107
x-San Jose 105 x-Nashville 99 x-Tampa Bay 103 x-Pittsburgh 106
x-Anaheim 99 x-Chicago 97 x-Montreal 96 x-Philadelphia 106
x-Phoenix 99 x-Dallas 95 x-Buffalo 96 x-N.Y. Rangers 93
Los Angeles 98 ST. LOUIS 87 Toronto 85 Carolina 91
Calgary 94 MINNESOTA 86 Ottawa 74 New Jersey 81
Colorado 68 Columbus 81 Florida 72 N.Y. Islanders 74
Edmonton 62 Winnipeg 80
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.

What if?

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.
Conference A
x-Vancouver 31
x-Phoenix 31
x-Los Angeles 30
x-San Jose 29
Edmonton 29
Colorado 27
Calgary 24
Anaheim 19

Conference B
x-Minnesota 37
x-Chicago 36
x-Detroit 33
x-St. Louis 31
Dallas 31
Nashville 28
Winnipeg 26
Columbus 17

Conference C
x-Boston 35
x-Florida 34
x-Toronto 32
x-Buffalo 29
Ottawa 29
Montreal 27
Tampa Bay 24

Conference D
x-Pittsburgh 36
x-N.Y. Rangers 33
x-Philadelphia 33
x-Washington 27
New Jersey 25
N.Y. Islanders 21
Carolina 20.

-- 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
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