The final installment of my expansion and realignment plan involves the playoffs. The current system disregards the divisions except for the division winners, who are automatically slotted 1-2-3 in the conference based on records. Playoff slots 4 through 8 are then decided by best record within the conference at the close of the season.
By having a total of 9 division winners, a new setup is necessary, as it would not fit into the old format. Divisional records are now going to be the key for making the playoffs.
For starters, no longer will you have a clear picture of East and West when it comes time to the determine the brackets, as you will have a third conference involved.
Teams will be ranked from 1 to 16 regardless of conference. The number one overall spot will belong to the President’s Trophy winner. No longer will the receiving of that award be a mere footnote to cap a season of success – but it will guarantee that your team will play the lowest remaining seeded team.
Positions 2 through 7 will be filled by Division champions, with one exception. Since the President’s trophy winner will also be a division champion, the second place team in that division will fit in the division champion slot. The division that boasts the President’s trophy winner will then have one more team in the mix to try and bring home the Stanley Cup.
The final nine playoff spots will go three each to the conferences – going to the top three teams in the conference, the division standings no longer a precedence.
With this playoff format – a division can boast all four teams into the post season, or they could sneak in with just the division winner.
Once the teams are nestled into order from one through 16, the teams are paired, 1 vs 16; 2 vs 15; 3 vs 14; 4 vs 13; 5 vs 12; 6 vs 11; 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs 9.
After the first round of best of seven games, the teams are reseeded and the highest ranked team will play the lowest ranked team.
This format stands true that the playoffs are truly the second season.