The NHL sent out a memo to all 30 NHL clubs today detailing the 2014 realignment plan, which was leaked to TSN. Instead of the previous idea of four conferences, this plan calls for two conferences comprised of two divisions each, sending Detroit and Columbus to the East and Winnipeg to the West. Each division within the Eastern Conference has 8 teams, while in the West, each division only has 7.
In terms of playoffs, this new plan would mean divisional matchups as opposed to the current conference matchup format. The three teams with the most points in each division will clinch playoff spots, while the four remaining spots will go to wild-cards (the teams with the top two remaining records in each conference). This new format means that one division could have five playoff teams, while the other only has three.
If this is the case, per TSN, “the top division winner based on regular-season points in the standings would face off against the lower-ranked wild-card team. The other division winner would play the higher-ranked wild-card.” In other words, the wild-card teams will get the fourth seed and we’ll see 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 match-ups.
The NHLPA has not yet agreed to this plan. They will be discussing it with players before any decision is made.