Coming out of the 2012-2013 NHL Lockout, the league implemented a variety of changes. Things like boring salary cap and revenue stuff, uniform regulations, and increased injury protocols. But the biggest change was that to the conference and division alignment, as well as the playoff system that would take effect in the 2013-14 season. That is, the move to a bracket system.
While there was never anything wrong with playoff hockey before, it was still pretty complicated with reseedings and whatnot. Ever try to run an office pool? Pretty well lasts 2 weeks of the first round and everyone is toast. But now things are different and lot like March Madness, but you get to start at the Sweet 16.
Teams stay in their division until the conference finals to build rivalries! Which is fair. The best rivalries in the league come from the playoffs: San Jose – Los Angeles, Chicago – Vancouver, Boston – Montreal, Philadelphia – Pittsburgh.
This change had primarily been overlooked. Mainly because it wasn’t yet totally relevant as it took over a year to really take effect.