Sure it's drastic, sure it's a lot of work, sure it probably won't happen while Buttman is in office...but it needs to be done.
NHL relocation and re- alignment are the only ways to fix the NHL, and this is shown by the unfair balance of teams.
Currently, the time zone split in the NHL is as follows:
(1) Eastern Time Zone, 17 teams (2 Western Conference, 15 Eastern Conference)
(2) Central Time Zone, 5 teams (5 Western Conference, 0 Eastern Conference)
(3) Mountain Time Zone, 4 teams (4 Western Conference, 0 Eastern Conference)
(4) Pacific Time Zone, 4 teams (4 Western Conference, 0 Eastern Conference)
How is it fair to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings that only played 12 non-Sunday away games in their own time zones this year? And that includes games where they play each other.
Those are the 23rd and 3rd most popular teams (through 2009-10 attendance figures) whose fans are getting cheated out of a large portion of their games because they can't stay up with the team!
Here is how I propose the NHL could fix this: first off, expand the NHL to a major sports leading 34 teams.
Which city is most deserving of a new NHL team?
The candidates for expansion I would include are:
(1) Winnipeg Jets
(2) Las Vegas Lights
(3) Seattle Slap Shot
(4) Saskatchewan Snow
You then shift pretty much every team into new divisions. These could look something like this:
Toronto Maple Leafs
New Jersey Devils
Detroit Red Wings
Columbus Blue Jackets
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning
Seattle Slap Shot
Las Vegas Lights
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
For scheduling, you have a reduced 76 game schedule.
In a five team division, you play each in-division team six times each.
That makes 24 games.
In a four team division, you then play each non-division in-conference team three times, except for one rival that you play five times. Two teams will be excluded from the rivalry game and play an extra non-conference three game series
In a five team division, you play each non-division in-conference team three times, except for one rival you play six times. In addition, you also play an extra three games against an in-division opponent. There will be one rotating team from each conference excluded from this who will play an additional three game series with the excluded team from the other conference.
I know that is confusing, but it is 31 games, which makes a total of 55 so far.
You then have three non conference rivals that you play a seven game series with.
That is 21 games which makes a grand total of 76 games.
Playoff is pretty much the same, except you take the top two teams from each division rather than top eight from conference. Seeding is still done by conference.
I know this is confusing, and may not be the ideal situation for everybody, but this is the system that I would use.