What would the playoff race look like under the NHL’s failed realignment plan?

NHL realignment was the talk of the town for the first three months of the season before the idea died on the operating table when the NHLPA quashed the radical reformatting in early January.

It was the right call. The proposal was flawed, especially in regards to how it impacted the playoff race and teams' chances of making the postseason. Now, thanks to Sports Club Stats, we can actually what that impact would have been.

The website is the go-to source for your team's mathematical odds of making the playoffs under the current Conference format, but they're also tracking the playoff race based on the shelved realignment.

If you're a fan of the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets or Dallas Stars, you should be giddy this proposal didn't make it past the NHLPA. Let's take a look at who sits where after Wednesday night's action, according to the four-conference system:


Conference A

95 Vancouver
85 Colorado
84 Los Angeles
84 Phoenix
82 San Jose
82 Calgary
75 Anaheim
66 Edmonton

Conference A is a dogfight, with only the Vancouver Canucks certain they'll be playing into April and five other teams clawing it out for three spots. That's one more spot than the same teams are currently fighting for in the current situation, but there's also one team missing from this dogfight: the Dallas Stars. They're in Conference B.

Conference B

100 St. Louis
93 Detroit
92 Nashville
92 Chicago
85 Dallas
76 Winnipeg
70 Minnesota
53 Columbus

And, unfortunately for Dallas, Conference B is a little top-heavy, with the Central Division's four standout groups hogging all four playoff spots. While Dallas has a 73.4% likelihood of making the playoffs and a 36% chance to win the division under the current alignment, they're all but mathematically eliminated in the four-conference system. According to Sportsclubstats, by these standings, the Stars have a 7.5% chance of making the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Jets, who are only 4 points back of the playoffs and still have an outside (9.5% chance) of making the dance this year are a loss away from being mathematically eliminated already. They're done.

Conference C

87 Boston
85 Florida
84 Ottawa
80 Buffalo
72 Toronto
71 Tampa Bay
69 Montreal

Turning our attention to Conference C, Buffalo benefits from a relatively weak group. In the real world, they're sitting in a tie for 8th place with the Washington Capitals, who have a game in hand. According to Sportsclubstats, Washington has a 72.9% chance of grabbing the final spot, while Buffalo only has a 24.0% chance.

But, under this alignment, Buffalo is all but guaranteed a spot, with a 92.2% chance of making it.

Conference D

99 NY Rangers
96 Pittsburgh
92 Philadelphia
89 New Jersey
80 Washington
75 Carolina
71 NY Islanders

The Capitals, meanwhile, are finished. With the entire Atlantic Division now sitting above them, they have a less than 1% chance of getting above 5th.


Obviously, the standings would also look a little different because of the differing schedule, but it's still interesting to note the changes. If you're a fan of exciting stretch drives, it's clear that the current format would be far more compelling. Only Conference A will be staging a race to the wire; every other Conference has already separated the wheat from the chaff.

And it's probably a foregone conclusion that the 8 teams in Conference A would be quick to point this out. All 5 of its bubble teams would be sitting in a playoff spot in Conference C, which is less competitive and less crowded, with only 7 teams. There will always be teams that make the playoffs based on a weak group, but the opportunity to make the playoffs is so much easier in Conference C it hardly seems fair.

s/t to SOTSO Hockey for the tip.