Here is where things get difficult as far as I'm concerned.
Simple logic would dictate a No. 1-16 seeding and just deal with it. But this really isn't fair to teams that would have to travel great distances, and it is not really conducive to television times.
So let's try something a little weird.
The top five teams in each conference make the playoffs, and so does the highest sixth place team.
The teams will be broken into four brackets—a Western, Eastern, Northern, and Wild Card bracket. The teams play the first two rounds inside that bracket and the final four get re-seeded based on the regular season.
The Wild Card bracket will be a little strange. It will consist of the best two second place teams, the fourth place team from the conference that is not being represented with either second place team and the fifth place team from the conference that has six teams in the playoffs.
This is certainly convoluted, but it does ensure the teams at the top of the conference don't get punished with huge travel distances.
It makes certain every good team gets a relatively easy first round opponent, gives three quarters of the league an easier travel schedule for three rounds and makes the end of the season very unpredictable.
Here is what it would look like based on the 2010-11 standings.
Vancouver Canucks (W1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (W5)
Anaheim Ducks (W3) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (W4)
Washington Capitals (E1) vs. Dallas Stars (E6)
Pittsburgh Penguins (E3) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (E4)
Detroit Red Wings (N1) vs. Buffalo Sabres (N5)
Boston Bruins (N2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (N4)
Wild Card Bracket
Philadelphia Flyers (E2) vs. Montreal Canadiens (N4)
San Jose Sharks (W2) vs. Nashville Predators (E5)
This actually works pretty well, all things considered. The Flyers and their 106 points are good enough for first seed in the Wild Card bracket followed by the Sharks and their 105 points.
The Bruins, the other second place team, stay in their own conference but it pushes the fourth place Habs into the Wild Card bracket.
Since the Dallas Stars were the best team not in the top five, they edge the Predators out of their own bracket. This guarantees Washington gets the easiest first round opponent possible and keeps everything in groups of four.
Obviously, the second place teams that get bumped would see this as a double-edged sword. Philadelphia and San Jose would hate to travel across the continent in the second round, but this way they get to avoid the big dogs in their conference in Washington and Vancouver, respectively.
Maybe for that bracket only, they could switch to a 2-3-2 format to minimize travel.
The other advantage of this set up is that it keeps strong divisional rivalries in the first two rounds of the playoffs, yet gives us the chance of divisional opponents meeting in the finals.
Philadelphia-Pittsburgh finals anyone?