With less than two weeks on the schedule, playoff races are heating up in the NHL. Will Detroit miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990? Will the Blue Jackets or Islanders make it? Will the preseason favorites, the New York Rangers, miss out entirely on a chance to compete for a Cup?
Those questions will be answered in thrilling fashion over the next few weeks, but let's take a look at something different.
With next year's realignment plan, playoff races will look much different and definitely have the potential to be even more entertaining. Here, we will take a look at what this year's races would look like under next year's plan.
Obviously, things would have probably worked out differently with Detroit and Columbus having completely different schedules, but it's always entertaining to look into the future and see what could happen.
Here's a quick review from the NHL's release on the realignment:
The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for the divisional championship.
The two divisional champions in each conference will then play in the conference finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.