How the 2020-21 NHL season would look under the normal alignment

Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (center). (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (center). (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Victor Hedman (77)
Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (center). (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The NHL is approaching the midway mark of the 2020-21 season.

As the year progresses, people begin to peek at the standings and theorize potential matchups. Fans will have either been let down by now, or they will be feeling optimistic about their team. The 202021 NHL season, of course, looks very unique, but what would it look like if we were still in the normal Division and Stanley Cup Playoffs alignment?

Which teams’ outlooks would be different in the typical format? Which teams on the outside might have a better shot under the old model, and which contenders would we be calling into question?

Obviously, each team is only playing a handful of teams this year, so it is not a perfect comparison. Nevertheless, it’s intriguing to wonder how the season might be shaping up had this been a normal season. It can also be a good indicator of what is to come for teams once the NHL returns to a more usual state.

How would the NHL standings look if this season followed the normal format?

Looking at the standings generally, only one of the current division leaders would be division leaders in the previous format. With that said, 15/16 teams that would qualify for the postseason today based on points would currently be in a position to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs under last year’s alignment as well.

The Boston Bruins would be the team slated to make the Playoffs if the season ended today that would not be in that position if we were in a normal season. The LA Kings would be the team getting in instead.

To make it all easier to visualize, let’s break things down by division. Here is where each team would stand if the 2020-21 NHL season was played under the usual alignment in a normal season.

Carolina Hurricanes
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Metropolitan Division

The Metro isn’t overly difficult to picture, as it looks a lot like the current East Division. The most notable impact is at the top, where the Carolina Hurricanes, currently sitting in first place in the 2021 version of the Central Division, would hold a lead over the current East leader, the New York Islanders. The only other change is at the bottom, where the Buffalo Sabres are substituted in this year for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (19-6-1, 39 points)

2. New York Islanders (17-6-4, 38 points)

3. Washington Capitals (16-6-4, 36 points)

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (16-9-1, 33 points)

5. Philadelphia Flyers (13-8-3, 29 points)

6. Columbus Blue Jackets (10-12-6, 26 points)

7. New York Rangers (11-12-3, 25 points)

8. New Jersey Devils (8-12-3, 19 points)

This alignment would have the Canes, Isles, and Washington Capitals currently in Playoff positions, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers would be wild card candidates (we’ll see where they would stand after assessing the Atlantic Division in a moment).

My key takeaway here is that the Hurricanes are having a really strong season. The Canes would be the Metro leaders, even with a game in hand over the second-place Islanders. That even comes after playing in a Central Division that has more balance than many thought it would have, thanks to strong seasons from the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks. Keep a close eye on the Hurricanes as this season rolls ahead.