Now that we are about a dozen games into the new season cracks are already evident in the new alignment scheme that suggests some teams that could well make the playoffs will be at the expense of much better teams that will get shut out of the post season. Truth is after about six games this trend started to appear but it was too early to warrant a comment but with 15% of the season in the books and plenty of inter conference play, it can no longer be glossed over. What I am referencing is the imbalance between the Eastern and Western conferences.
The big deal is that should the early trend continue, it will result in two or perhaps even three mediocre teams gaining a playoff berth in the East while the same number of Western based teams with over .500 records will be on the sidelines.
After the games played on October 28th, the 7th place team in the West, the L.A. Kings is just barely in a playoff spot by 2 points but would be tied for first if they played in the East. It gets worse. The only team in the West that does not have a winning record against the East is the Edmonton Oilers.
The only teams in the East with winning records against the West are Tampa, Toronto, and Pittsburgh. Those three Eastern teams are the only ones listed in the top 12 overall NHL standings at sixth through eighth, leaving nine teams in the West in the top 12 and one of those would not make the playoffs while five mediocre Eastern teams would qualify.
Of the ten worst teams in the NHL Edmonton is the only Western team that makes the list. At the top, San Jose, Vancouver, Colorado, Chicago, and Anaheim all have more points than the first place teams in the East. Games played differentials to this point are not a factor other than Vancouver having played a couple more games with most having played 12 games to this point.
I am sure the NHL is well aware of this unfolding fiasco and can only be praying that the lengthy schedule will tend to even things out over time. If this early trend holds however, it is going to be a strange year and even stranger playoffs as the top Eastern teams get weak opponents in the first few rounds, which actually improves their chances of going all the way.