The current Eastern Conference will once again return to the Prince of Wales conference, and will maintain the Prince of Wales Trophy for the regular season champion of that division. It will house the following divisions: Lemieux (Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax), Adams (Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh), and Patrick (NYR, NYI, New Jersey, Washington).
The current Western Conference will return to the days of the Clarence Campbell Conference, and will keep the Clarence Campbell Bowl for the regular season victor. This conference will keep one of its old Divisions, the Smythe (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton). Joining the Smythe division will be the Gretzky (Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle), and Plante (Las Vegas, Pheonix, Colorado, Dallas).
The new Central Conference will be named the Gordie Howe Conference, and a new trophy, the Gordie Howe Memorial Trophy will be presented to the team with the best overall regular season record. The Howe Conference will be composed of the old Norris Division (Minnesota, St. Paul, Detroit, Chicago), and will be joined by Orr (Nashville, St. Louis, Oklahoma, Columbus), and Ross (Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta).
Not wanting to lengthen the regular season beyond the current 82 game schedule, the following guide would be implemented with the new league format. .
Teams will face the teams in their divisions 8 times each, four home and four away. This will help foster old rivalries, and strive to create new ones. This will amount to 24 games of a teams schedule.
Intra-conference games will be played at a rate of 5 games per team, 3 home and 2 away (alternating from year to year to balance the extra game). This will amount to 40 games on the team schedule, 20 home and 20 away. For example, for a Boston Bruins/Montreal Canadiens schedule, in year one of the new system, three games will be played in Boston, two in Montreal. The following year, three games will be played in Montreal, two in Boston.
Inter-conference games will be limited to 18 games per season, nine home and nine away. This will amount to a 4/5 split between opposing conferences that will rotate on a year to year basis. For example, a Prince of Wales Conference team will play 4 Howe Conference teams, and five Clarence Campbell teams. The following year it would be 5 Howe and 4 Clarence Campbell teams.
The point system would be restructured for the regular season games. Regulation wins and wins occurring in the five minute overtime would be 3 points for the winner, 0 points for the loser. If a team goes to the shootout, 2 points would be awarded to the winner, and 1 point to the loser.
Stay tuned for Part Three of my expansion and realignment phase as I outline the post season structure!