Since the CBA negotiations are so depressing, I thought I would post my ideas for realignment since that's more fun to think about. The NHL's plan is pretty weird in that it puts teams in Florida in the same division as Eastern Canadian teams. It seems to me the easiest plan would be to do a three team swap of Colorado, Dallas, and Winnipeg.
I'd much prefer to see Dallas in the South East so games are only one timezone away instead of two. Winnipeg joins the three other Western Canadian teams and Minnesota. Colorado joins the Pacific with three California teams and Phoenix. While Dallas no longer has to play road division games two timezones away, Winnipeg and Minnesota still will. So let's try some out of the box thinking so that no division has teams spanning three timezones.
The NHL already went a bit OOTB by proposing four conferences/divisions. Two would have eight teams and two would have seven. A better solution would be a five conferences/divisions of six teams. This would create a bit of an unbalanced schedule but it's not as bad as you think. First let's look at the divisions.
West - Anaheim Ducks, L. A. Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames - This division is comprised of three Western Canadian teams and three California teams. This division spans the Pacific and Mountain timezones and has the most travel. But no more so than the Florida teams would in the NHL's proposed alignment.
Central - Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks - This Division spans the Central and Mountain timezones. I know breaking up Chicago and Detroit is a bit of a downer, but hopefully Phoenix will move and allow Detroit to join this division.
South - Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitols - The Good Ole Boy or Sun Belt division spans Central and Eastern timezones. It allows the Florida teams to have division rivals that are geographically and culturally similar. As I said, I would prefer to see the Stars in a division with Eastern timezone teams now that I have kids and go to bed way too early.
North - Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators - The last two divisions are completely in the Eastern timezone. This one could be considered the Great Lakes division or the Rust Belt division.
East - Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins - The Acela Division (yes I know the Acela doesn't go to Pittsburgh)
So about that schedule. Each team would play the other 5 teams in its division 6 times (3 home/3 away) for 30 total. They would then play 2 against the other 24 other teams in the league (1 home/1 away) for a total 48. That brings us up to 78 (30 plus 48). I don't expect the owners (or the players for that matter) to accept anything less than an 82 schedule since they would lose revenue (HRR). So an extra 4 games need to be added. In this case we add one game each from the other 4 division based on previous year's record. So a first place finish this year means you play the 4 other first place teams (2 home/2 away). The first year of realignment would need a transitional schedule but that's just for the first year.
As for the other stuff, All Star game is sand lot style so no need for conferences. The playoffs would be the 5 division winners plus 11 wild cards. I would like to see the team with the best record pick its playoff opponent from the bottom 8 seeds. Then the second best record picks and so on until the eighth seed gets whoever is left. They could turn it into the NHL Playoff selection show and sell ads (read: more HRR). Sports fans, radio hosts, and writers would debate who their team should (or shouldn't) choose. Teams picked would start saying nobody believes in us. Fans would beat their chest. All of this would create interest and increase ratings (yes more HRR).