With Atlanta moving to Winnipeg, the National Hockey League will definitely need to realign. Someone is going to have to move East, and there will be a shift of divisions for some teams. This would be a great time to overhaul the entire divisional setup, and Gary Bettman is proposing a two-division per conference setup.
My idea is a bit more radical, as it would involve keeping the six divisions but eliminating the conferences. In this setup, under this format, teams would play each team in their division six times (24 games), and each team in the same region four times (20 games) for a total of 44 games. They would then play each team in each of the other divisions twice each (40 games) for a total of 84 games. Sure it adds two more regular season games, but I think it adds much more to the league as every city would get to see every team at least once at home and once on the road every season.
If the league really wanted to stay at 82 games, they could pick two teams each season that a team would play just once, rotating it every season. I would start the season a few days earlier rather than later, as the season goes a bit long as it is.
Here is what I would do:
Northeast Division (Region 1)
Atlantic Division (Region 1)
Southeast Division (Region 2)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Midwest Division (Region 2)
Southwest Division (Region 3)
Northwest Division (Region 3)
The playoffs would give the division winners the top 6 spots, followed by the next 10 teams. If it had been used this year, the first round would have looked like this:
(1) Vancouver vs. (16) Dallas
(2) Washington vs. (15) Buffalo
(3) Philadelphia vs. (14) Montreal
(4) San Jose vs. (13) Chicago
(5) Detroit vs. (12) Los Angeles
(6) Boston vs. (11) Phoenix
(7) Pittsburgh vs. (10) Nashville
(8) Tampa Bay vs. (9) Anaheim
The New York Rangers would have missed the playoffs and the Dallas Stars would have made it in. The Boston-Vancouver final still could have happened, as the teams were on separate sides of the bracket.
A new alignment and playoff system (similar to the old-style one used by the NHL) could be intriguing.