NHL Realigns

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Starting next year, the NHL’s divisional tables and playoff format will have a whole new look.

With a nod to geography, the league will organize teams into a two-conference, four-division format. The biggest moves will be that the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will shift to the new 16-team Eastern Conference, leaving 14 teams in the Western Conference. That’s good news for Toronto Maple Leaf fans, who will look forward to facing their old playoff foes more than once or twice a year.

The changes are also positive for the Winnipeg Jets, who will move to the Western conference, and begin renewing their old rivalries with Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, dormant since the previous incarnation of the franchise.

With a hat-tip to NHL.com, here’s how the new format will look:

The new playoff format is where it gets a bit confusing. Again, according to NHL.com:

“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.”