With 32 NHL teams, you'd think that Gary Bettman would go to an NFL-esque divisional format. Unfortunately, that's not the case. We still have four oversized divisions, causing so much congestion. That's why we need to go to the NFL format and simplify matters for everyone.
Now, what would such a format look like? Here's how the divisions would be broken down:
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Vegas Golden Knights
St. Louis Blues
Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs
Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Division
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Columbus Blue Jackets
Now, I know what you're thinking. Why is a team in the Central Time Zone in the Eastern Conference while a team in the Eastern Time Zone is in the Western Conference? It's simple. Nashville has a lighter travel schedule from this. The Predators would only travel 538.9 miles to Raleigh, 726.6 miles to St. Petersburg, and 883.9 miles to Sunrise, Florida. Compare that to traveling 1,156.7 miles to Denver, 1,338.4 miles to Winnipeg, and 1,643.6 miles to Glendale, Arizona. That's a drastic reduction in mileage with the move.
The same theory applies to Detroit. The Red Wings would only travel 282.8 miles to see their old Original Six buddies, the Chicago Blackhawks (let's face it, the Red Wings/Maple Leafs and Red Wings/Canadiens rivalries don't have the same juice as they once did, Mike Ilitch). On top of that, they only travel 690.2 miles to St. Paul. Compare that to traveling 1,200.9 miles to St. Petersburg and 1,358.1 miles to Sunrise, Florida. Yikes.
I know Red Wing fans will complain about having to go back to the Western Conference. After all, they were kicking and screaming with Red Wing management until Gary Bettman moved them. However, the lighter travel load is one of the reasons why this move is a good thing.
My proposed format will focus solely on the divisional play, with intra-conference opponents facing each other for a home-and-home ordeal. Out-of-conference play will consist of playing two out-of-conference divisions in the same home-and-home format. The divisions will rotate each year to freshen up matters.
For example, the Central division will have a home-and-home series with the Northeast and New York divisions for one season. The Metropolitan division would host the Central division while the Southeast division would play at the Central division. The next season will have the Central Division face off against the Southeast and Metropolitan divisions. The rest of the games from the aforementioned stipulations would be divisional play.
It's time the NHL focused on the divisional play again. It made for great hockey for many fans that grew up with the sport. Seeing rivalries like Boston/Montreal and Detroit/Chicago made the game great. Showing the true passion of the sport will bring in new fans and keep old fans together.