The NHL's Board of Governors voted on Monday night to approve a new four-conference setup that is set to begin with the 2012-13 season. The setup differs from the current one in that rather than having six divisions and two conferences, the league will simply be divided up into four conferences.
The move to a four-conference system will result in the Red Wings being in a conference with the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, Wild, Predators, Blues and Jets. Basically, the Red Wings will still be in the Central Division, but under the new plan they will also be in the same grouping with the Stars, Wild and Jets.
Not only does this new system make the NHL more geographically balanced, but it also will result in a better schedule in terms of traveling for teams like Detroit and Columbus. The new schedule will be based on playing a home-and-home series with out of conference teams and filling out the rest of the schedule with in-conference teams. This means the Red Wings will not be traveling out west quite as often, which pleases general manager Ken Holland. From Craig Custance:
Red Wings fans who aren't happy with the realignment plan, know that your GM is. "We're thrilled," Ken Holland said.
The Red Wings also will not have to worry about making as many trips out west in the playoffs. This is because the first two rounds of the playoffs will be intra-conference. Four teams from each conference will make the playoffs, and only after a conference champion is crowned will teams face opponents from another conference. This means the days of potentially having to go out west for the first three rounds of the playoffs are gone.
Before this new setup is made official, the league and NHLPA have to reach an agreement. There's no reason to expect this plan not to go forward, though, so expect this to be the new setup for next season (via Raw Charge):
I'm with Holland on this one. This new setup will be much better not only for the Red Wings, but also for their fans, especially come playoff time.