So, this is what the league will look like in 2012-2013.
Okay, some things to understand during the regular season.
1.) In the Pens conference, they will play each team six times. Conferences with eight teams will play each other five or six times.
2.) Teams will play everyone outside their conference twice, home and home. Awesome.
3.) These aren't divisions. These are conferences. They aren't named yet, either.
Now, the playoffs is where this gets interesting.
1.) Top 4 from each conference go to playoffs seeded as-is and play their own mini 4-team tournament. So basically think of it like this: you have to play out of your conference first.
2.) Now, buckle up for this. The winners of the 4 mini tournaments will then get re-seeded and play in what used to be the "conference finals." So basically, the EAST/WEST is done. In some sick world, the Penguins could play the Habs or Leafs for the Cup.
There are pros and cons.
The divisional playoff setup can also lead to redundant, predictable matchups; and to inequity, as teams with higher point totals are squeezed out of the postseason because they play in tougher divisions. The glorious mathematical chaos of the last weekends of the season will give way to something more straightforward. The days of the No. 8 seed rising up to take out the President's Trophy winner in the first round are done.
The only problem we have is getting one of those 4 top spots in your conference. It is going to be a big-time battle to make the playoffs. Looking at the Pens conference, only four teams make it? Mannn.
*There's still some red tape to clear on this realignment. There's voting processes and shit coming in March.