Update: Monday, December 5th, the NHL announced a four conference league that toys with the issues without solving them. TSN Story Here – This is a really stupid plan. Two conferences have seven teams, two have eight teams. Schedules that have to be compromised every season. Really dumb move guys.

The NHL needs to realign. With Atlanta moving to Winnipeg in the off-season there needs to be a realignment of the divisions. There are currently 30 teams in the NHL and little chance of Bettman expanding that to 32 teams to making the math work. Talk in the Ottawa Sun today was that the league is looking at four divisions, with seven or eight teams in each. Given that Bettman also will not contract the league down to 28 teams, thus admitting defeat, he has to make the math work. We certainly couldn’t ditch the Islanders and the Coyotes from the NHL now could we?

The current method does not work. So what will?

Two divisions total. Each with 15 teams. East and West. Call each of them by their old names, the Campbell and the Prince of Wales.  Each team plays within their division three times, and against teams in the other division two times. This means 75 games total for a season, seven less than the current 82 games.

But that is not all… Lets redesign the playoffs. Last few years we’ve seen a lot of the same matchups, Vancouver-Chicago for example. Model the playoffs after the FA in the United Kingdom. Instead of the number one ranked team going against number eight, two and seven and so on, why not draw for each round?

At the start of playoffs, take the eight teams and draw their first round matches. It could be number one and three, teams four and eight or two and five. Then when the winners first round are over, do it again. After the first two rounds you are left with the best two in each division, then the top from each division meets for the final.

One could also go even further. Once the first two rounds are over and it’s down to eight teams (four east, four west) put those eight teams in a common pool and let them go at it. It could end up being two teams from the east or two from the west for the final.

Of course this will never happen so long as Bettman is commissioner because the NHL is just a pretty, choreographed mess when it comes to the politics of the playoffs. Just as there couldn’t have been a Toronto-Montreal final in the 1993 cup final, there wont be two teams from the east deserving of the honour of battling for Lord Stanley’s chalice of hockey holiness.

Phil’s Idea of a redesigned, two-division NHL:

Prince of Wales Division (East)

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Montreal Canadiens
  3. Ottawa Senators
  4. Toronto Maple Leafs
  5. Buffalo Sabres
  6. Florida Panthers
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning
  8. Philadelphia Flyers
  9. Pittsburgh Penguins
  10. Washington Capitals
  11. Carolina Hurricanes
  12. New York Rangers
  13. New York Islanders
  14. New Jersey Devils
  15. Columbus Blue Jackets
Clarence Campbell Conference (West)

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Chicago Blackhawks
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. Minnesota Wild
  5. Winnipeg Jets
  6. Nashville Predators
  7. Detroit Red Wings
  8. Calgary Flames
  9. Edmonton Oilers
  10. Vancouver Canucks
  11. San Jose Sharks
  12. Los Angeles Kings
  13. Anaheim Ducks
  14. Phoenix Coyotes
  15. Colorado Avalanche