The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added as a new wrinkle.
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 berths in the Conference Championship series.
The two divisional champions in each conference will then play in the conference finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
I like the fact that there should be more divisional playoffs; 4 divisional series guaranteed in the first round, up to 4 in the second round.
I don't like the fact that the third round is a conference championship, I was hoping that it would be re-seeded based on overall points allowing for more possibilities for the cup finals.
I'm not crazy about the fact that if the two best teams in the league are from the same division, one would be out in the first 2 rounds but I guess that's a casualty to having more divisional emphasis.
I don't like this format regardless of how they group the teams . I understand that they're trying to cut down the travel but why not try to rejig what we have now ? There's never going to be a perfect format due to where the teams are located but how does a 16/14 split of conferences strike the big thinkers as a logical solution .
The league needs to try to level the playing field not set up conferences where it's easier to make the playoffs in one as compared to the other .
*16 total teams compete
*8 teams from each "conference"
*4 teams from each new division.
The top 3 teams in the division qualify automatically for the playoffs, to make up 12 teams total.
The remaining 4 spots are the "wildcard" spots - given to the highest placed finishers in each conference. (REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY ARE IN THE DIVISION).
SO, it's conceivable that a strong division, like the "North East" division (Pitt, Philly, NYR, etc), could have 5 teams in the playoffs, while the Leafs division could only have 3 teams in the playoffs. Either way, the "EAST" has 8 teams.
Division leaders face wild-card teams in playoff seeding, so the wild-card counts as the lowest seed.