With the NHL's radical realignment structure approved earlier on Monday evening, more details are being unveiled. Here is the approved playoff structure:
There will be four conferences in the NHL beginning in the 2012-2013 season. At the end of the season, the top four teams in each conference will be seeded #1 through #4, based on total point total. For the first two rounds of the playoffs, these four teams will face each other until there is a conference champion.
For example, here is a hypothetical using the Colorado Avalanche as an example.
Seed #1 Colorado Avalanche
Seed #2 Vancouver Canucks
Seed #3 Los Angeles Kings
Seed #4 San Jose Sharks
In this example, the Avalanche would play the Sharks while the Canucks would face off against the Kings for the first round. The second round would pit the winner of Avalanche-Sharks against the winner of Canucks-Kings. After these two rounds, there would be a single team left from that conference.
For the third round of the playoffs, the four remaining teams would be reseeded based on regular season point totals until there is a single team remaining.
The most exciting aspect of this new playoff structure are the possibilities of very novel Stanley Cup Finals matchups. If the Avalanche ended up winning their conference, they could face any team in the NHL that is not in their conference. There could actually be an Avalanche-Red Wings Finals matchup.
The only teams that Colorado couldn't face in the Finals are their new conference mates: the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers.
Follow this stream for more details as they are announced.