Top four in each conference will make the playoffs. That makes things considerably more difficult for the two western conferences. Of course, the rumours started right away. From everyone's favourite rumour site:
This is from Richard Cloutier, who clearly has a sense of humour, but does make an interesting case:The NHL is about to expand to 32 teams.
http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog/Richard-Cloutier/THE-TRUTH-About-NHL-Realignment/131/40285Before you all bash me and laugh off what I am saying just because I have no sources and make things up, think about this situation and apply logic. Why put 16 teams in the West (where there aren't many opportunities for new teams) and 14 in the East (where there are opportunities a plenty)? Even if a few Eastern teams needed to move for financial reasons, there are plenty of other cities the NHL can try. Consider the Toronto area alone. Isn't there a new rink going up in Markham? Or the league could think Hamilton instead. See? Options. Could a team go to Baltimore? Hartford? A third Florida team? Options, options, options.
Whatever the reasons, the NHL has approved the switch, and it's expected that it'll be implemented next season.