The realignment proposal endorsed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in June for the 2012-13 season entails switching to four "conferences." A similar format is now "gaining steam," according to Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports.
The plan being discussed includes having the same two conferences, but with a total of four divisions. Two divisions will have eight teams and the other two will have seven teams.
One of the biggest problems with this proposed format, though, is the splitting of a few key rivalries between divisions.
The Boston-Montreal rivalry would remain intact, but the Penguins-Flyers rivalry would practically fall apart overnight. Friedman explained what the realignment would do for those out-of-division matchups.
"The way it works is you will play every team not in your division home-and-home, and the rest of the games will be in your division. So Pittsburgh would not be with Philadelphia, and that's one thing the Penguins were understandably concerned about, because [they say] we're going to lose that rivalry," he said.
What other implications would the four-division format have? The first round of the playoffs would be within your own division. The unbalance could spell certain doom for teams like Toronto and Ottawa, who would be in a division with Boston, Montreal, Buffalo and Pittsburgh and either Columbus or Detroit.
Twenty of the 30 members of the NHL's Board of Governors would need to approve the realignment for next season, which reportedly could be settled as early as December.