Monday, December 5th, the NHL's Board of Governors came to a decision on the makeup of next year's new conference format. It was a swift decision and according to NHL.com, it only took little over an hour to be agreed upon.
The league will now be made up of four conferences, with two conferences having seven teams, and two conferences having eight teams. Each team will have a home-and-home game against every club in the league and a few extra inner-conference games. Almost all of the rivalries have been preserved, and it also makes the travel schedule much more even than the current format, which favors less travel for Eastern conference teams.
The Islanders' future conference will feature the Islanders, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers, New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes, making this one of the "seven-team" conferences.
The top four teams from each conference will advance to the playoffs, and this is where the Islanders may have some trouble. As it stands right now, four of the best teams in the league (currently) are in the Isle's conference. Those teams being the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Rangers.
It won't be surprising that the top three playoff spots will usually be occupied by the Pens, Flyers and Caps more often than not, though, perhaps the one exception being the the Capitals, who are having a bit of trouble this season. The other two teams (Philly and Pittsburgh) are among the best in the league right now.
This format makes it a bit easier to make the playoffs, as four teams from each conference will advance instead of an overall points race between 15 teams. The running for the fourth place will be super tight in this new conference, and the most highly contested.
A war will be waged between the Rangers, Hurricanes, Islanders and Devils, with all of these teams needing to make a playoff run and all of these teams capable of beating each other. However, with them not being the super elite of the league will make for some very interesting regular-season contests.
Point being, right now we'd only be six points out of a fourth-place playoff birth, and as long as the third- and fourth-place teams in the conference don't run away in points next season, any team out of the seven are capable of a postseason showing.
Next season, the Islanders must find away to avoid any major slumps. They desperately need a playoff appearance.
It may not come this season, and while the new format makes it easier for teams to get to the postseason, our conference in particular is stacked. Out of the six other teams in the conference, the only teams we seem to have a decent bit of trouble beating are the Flyers and Pens, meaning the Isles could possibly make a third- or fourth-place appearance next season.
The new format makes it easier if the teams remain even and play to their potential; the Isles must take advantage of this.
To sum it up: The new format helps the team. If the Islanders are consistent during the regular season, avoid slumps and no other teams run away in points, the Islanders are very capable of making a playoff appearance in the new conference.
Comments and ideas are encouraged. I want to hear what all the other Isles fans think of this!