Except, I actually really like this plan, honestly. Realignment was a must after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg. It didn't make a whole lot of sense for the Jets to be in the Eastern Conference and the Columbus Blue Jackets to be in the West. While it would have been easy enough just to swap those two teams, the NHL Board of Governors decided to do this with gusto.* The NHL, starting next year, will be broken up into four conferences, which will be much more geographically in sync than the current arrangement.
*Any day I can work in a Star Control II reference is a good day.
These conferences are as of yet unnamed, but I'll do my best here. The one near and dear to my heart would be the Midwestern conference, consisting of the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, and Winnipeg Jets. The Western Conference would be the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers. The Eastern Conference would be Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Vaguely-New York Conference would be the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Carolina Hurricanes.
If you would like it in graphical form, here is a Google Earth file with the arenas marked and divided.
I always like when leagues actually pay attention to geography. I can be a bit of a geography nerd, so it tickles my fancy that way. It also lets the NHL truly balance the schedule. As far as how it affects the playoffs, that really doesn't effect me too much one way or the other. Still sixteen teams, it's just now four teams over four conferences instead of eight teams from two. Things will still be bracketed by conference as well. First place plays fourth place, second plays third. Nothing too radical there, it'll just be more localized (for lack of a better word). No word yet on how the semifinal (which would no longer be a conference final, that's really the biggest change) would be paired up, but I'm sure they will figure that out. If I had my way, it would just go by regular season points. The remaining team with the most points plays the one with the least, and then get second and third that way as well. That, though, might be a tad too obvious.
Another way they could do it, which I wouldn't mind, would be to seed the conferences. Now, you couldn't do this by straight points, as two conferences have eight teams and two have seven teams. But you could do it by the playoff teams out of each conference. And nobody could complain about schedule, because now they will all be balanced. So, let's just say we take the current standings and pretend we're already realigned. That means in the Midwest, the four playoff teams would be Minnesota (44 pts.), Chicago (42 pts.), Detroit (39 pts.), and St. Louis (39 pts.). That brings us to 164 points. The other conferences:
West: Vancouver (38 pts.), San Jose (35 pts.) Phoenix (35 pts.), and LA (32 pts.). Total: 140 points.
East: Boston (41 pts.), Florida (38 pts.), Toronto (35 pts.), and Buffalo (33 pts.) Total: 147 points.
New York: Philadelphia (43 pts.), NY Rangers (38 pts.), Pittsburgh (38 pts.), and Washington (33 pts.) Total: 152 points.
So, that means that the Midwest conference would be seeded number one, so whoever came out of that bracket would play whoever came out of the West bracket, as they are the weakest conference in terms of points. The New York bracket winner would get home ice over whoever came out of the East bracket. That way you get rewarded for playing in a tougher conference. It might also promote some conference loyalty. You want the other teams in your conference to do well to help out your own team. Think of it almost like a season-long version of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
Another idea I wouldn't mind seeing would be make every game worth three points. If you win in regulation, you get all three points. If you win in overtime, you get two points, the loser getting one point. And if you lose in regulation, you get nothing, obviously. This seems to make a lot more sense to me than creating an extra point if a game goes to overtime, as it currently stands. I stole this from somebody who emailed it to Grantland, but it just makes too much sense not to do it.