That means the Nashville Predators only have another 22 games remaining as member of the NHL Central Division. The name of their new division hasn’t been determined yet, but their new rivals have. The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues remain with Nashville. They’ll all be joined by new additions in the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and Winnipeg Jets.
Along with the realignment comes a new division-based playoff format. From the Nashville Predators’ press release:
Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three “seeds” in each Division).
The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as “Wild Cards,” will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.
“Seeding” of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.
Just to get an idea of how things would look if the new system were in place this year, here’s how the Western Conference would shake out:
|NHL Realignment – Western Conference Playoff Picture|
If this season were being played under the new NHL realignment plan and ended right now, Chicago would face San Jose; St. Louis would face Minnesota; Anaheim would face Phoenix; and Los Angeles would face Vancouver. So even under the new system, Nashville would have to play better than they have been in order to make the playoffs. Being guaranteed not to have to face the Ducks in the first round would be a plus, though, and reaching third place so as to avoid the Blackhawks in the first round would be within reach.