The NHL has a proposed a new realignment plan for the 2013-14 season that looks pretty sweet. They are working with the NHLPA on a proposal that would see two conferences, each having two divisions. Here is a visual via TSN:
So, as TSN puts it, the playoff format will go as follows:
The playoff format calls for the top three teams in each division to earn post-season berths. The remaining four spots would go to wild-card teams, the top two records remaining in each conference. That means there's a possibility five teams make it from one division and only three from another.
It would be divisional playoffs, not conference playoffs, so 1 vs. 4, 2 vs 3 in the first round. The two fourth seeds would be made up of the wild-card teams. 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.
First-round winners then meet in second round in the division championship; Third round sees Pacific winner vs. Mid-West winner in Western Conference finals; Central winner versus Atlantic winner in Eastern Conference finals; Eastern and Western Conference champions meet in Stanley Cup finals.
What do you think? I like it. Much improved system in almost every way. The Canucks get to spend more time surfing but face the stiffer competition that is the current Pacific Division more often. The wild card option is cool in that more "better" teams make the dance. But that part is not quite where I want it yet, yet a step in the right direction.
This concept would have to be approved by the NHLPA.