The Explainer: New NHL playoff seeding format

With NHL realignment comes a different playoff seeding format. Gone is the format that sees the top eight teams from the Eastern and Western conferences gain entry. Now, there are 16 teams on one side, 14 on the other and 16 playoff spots to divvy up.

Top 3 teams in each division gain berths, plus 2 wild cards

Under the NHL's realignment for the 2013-14 season, Jonathan Toews, far left, and the Blackhawks will play in the same division as Andrew Ladd, second from left, and the Jets. Same goes for Henrik Zetterberg, second from right, and the Red Wings and goalie Carey Price, far right, and the Canadiens. (Canadian Press/

Now that everyone (well, mostly everyone) is over the shock of new NHL division names, it may be a good time to look beyond the cover of this NHL realignment  book to see what it actually means in terms of playoff implications.

Gone is the simple format that sees the top eight teams in each conference gain Stanley Cup playoff spots. Now, there are 16 teams on one side, 14 on the other and 16 playoff spots to divvy up.

This is how the teams would be seeded in their new divisions based on last year's performance. Because they'll play out-of -conference games this season, comparisons to last season are fairly inapplicable. This is purely a mock-up to illustrate what could happen in the upcoming campaign, not an exercise of “what-if.”

Metropolitan Division

1. Z- Pittsburgh
2. Z - Washington
3. Z - NY Rangers

4. NY Islanders (55 points)
5. Columbus
6. Philadelphia
7. New Jersey
8.  Carolina

Atlantic Division

  1. Z- Montreal
  2. Z - Boston
  3. Z - Toronto
  4. X - Detroit (56 points)
  5. X- Ottawa (56 points)
  6. Buffalo
  7. Tampa Bay
  8. Florida

Central Division

  1. Z - Chicago
  2. Z - St. Louis
  3. Z -Minnesota
  4. X - Winnipeg  (51 points, 22 ROW)
  5. Dallas
  6. Nashville
  7. Colorado

Pacific Division

  1. Z - Anaheim
  2. Z - Vancouver
  3. Z - Los Angeles
  4. X - San Jose (57)
  5. Phoenix (51 points, 17 ROW)
  6. Edmonton
  7. Calgary


Z – These teams are the top three seeds in their division, and gain automatic entry into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

X – Wild card teams are the teams outside of the top three in their division, chosen because they have with the next highest point totals, regardless of the division. Three seeds can come from one division and five from another.

Matchup breakdown:

  1. The division leader in each conference with the most points plays the wild card team with the fewest points.
  2. The division leader  with the second highest amount of points plays the wild card team with the most points

3 & 4 – the second and third seeds in each division face one another in the first round.

This is what the first round would’ve looked like had realignment happened a year earlier:

Eastern Conference

  1. Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
  2. Montreal vs. Detroit
  3. Washington vs. NY Rangers
  4. Boston vs. Toronto

Western Conference

  1. Chicago vs. Winnipeg
  2. Anaheim v. San Jose
  3. St. Louis vs. Minnesota
  4. Vancouver vs. Los Angeles

So that’s what the 2013 playoffs would have started out like had realignment occurred a year earlier, and those teams managed to keep the same records despite facing new divisional opponents.

What do you think of the new seeding system? Is it perfect? Is it flawed? Let us know in the comments and have your say!


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