NHL Board of Governors Approves New Playoff Format to Go Along With A Four Division Format

The NHL Board of Governors approved the four division format we discussed earlier today.

San Jose will be in a division with the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, and Phoenix Coyotes.

Here is a list of the other divisions. Officially the terminology being used is "Conferences", but we prefer to use the term divisions because it sounds better and we desperately want to distinguish ourselves as a free-spirited blog that doesn't play by the rules.

During the regular season, San Jose will play every team outside of their division twice in a home and home format. The remaining games will be played within the division, with San Jose facing three teams 6 times and four teams 5 times. If San Jose plays Los Angeles 5 times next season, they would play Los Angeles 6 times in the following year. In other words, it would rotate annually.

The playoff format is as follows: the top four teams in each division will make the postseason, where they will be seeded according to the final standings. The 1 seed will play the 4 seed, while the 2 seed will play the 3 seed. The winners of those first round matchups will advance to face each other in what you can call the "Division Finals".

Following the "Division Finals", the winners will be re-seeded irrespective of time zone or geography. This means that there could be a San Jose-Pittsburgh semifinal, and a San Jose-Chicago Stanley Cup Final.

[Update 9:05 PM]: The re-seeding after the first two rounds has not been finalized yet. It will be voted on during meetings in the spring. In other words, having the two western-most Conferences play one another in the semifinals, leading to a West vs. East Stanley Cup Finals, is still on the table. [End Update]

In order for this to be put into place, the NHLPA must approve it before next season. There are rumblings this could be tabled and implemented in two years, but that can be covered at a later date.

Some assorted thoughts on the new alignment:

  • The first two rounds of the playoffs will be intense, divisional affairs that will no doubt breed nasty rivalries year after year. The postseason is where rivalries are truly made, and this should ramp that up to 11. This is exciting. In my opinion (and likely that of the League), this will generate significant interest from the casual viewer due to these annual rivalries and keep first round start times in or around the same time zone.
  • Therefore, it's a big win for television networks and advertisers, as well as fans and players, and should drive more money into the sport and make the League healthier as a whole.
  • The scheduling particulars haven't officially been laid out yet, but you have to think the NHL brass will load up as many Divisional games as they can towards the end of the season considering how important divisional standings will be at the end of the year. This again will help drive television ratings, as each night teams will be playing for their playoff lives.
  • If this occurs, the last month of the regular season will be akin to playoff-type hockey, more so than it is already considering teams will be fighting for four spots instead of eight. Again, that's a win from a business standpoint as well as a fan excitement standpoint.
  • Losing the Dallas Stars hurts, as those games are always some of the best matchups during the regular season. That is probably the biggest negative in my eyes.
  • The Sharks division is going to be insanely good in two years time (and hell, probably will be next year as well). Colorado and Edmonton are two talented up and coming teams that will put immense pressure on the current heavyweights San Jose, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Phoenix is never an easy game, and while the Ducks and Flames look to be on their way downwards, those games are never easy either.
  • Seriously, this division is going to be nuts.
  • Teams in the 8 team divisions will have a 50% chance at making the playoffs while teams in the 7 team divisions will have a 57% chance at making the playoffs. We'll see how if they add in any qualifiers (where maybe the 5 seed in an 8 team division will advance if their record is better than a 4 seed in a 7 team division), but that is a drawback that the Sharks will have to deal with if relocation doesn't take place.
  • The Sharks will still be in the most heavily traveled division, but the California teams (San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles) will have the least travel burden compared to their five other divisional opponents.

Do you like the new realignment scenario the Board of Governors approved tonight?