Everyone that seems to have something to say about the revamped WCHA next season has been calling it the "New Look WCHA". Its an interesting moniker, but I can see their point. The WCHA does have a great legacy of quality hockey, and while a lot of that legacy of national championships and Hobey Baker winners are vacating the conference, the quality of hockey remains. Extracting the teams from their existing conferences today, the standings in that "New Look WCHA" would look like this. (Conference, Overall). Current as of the results on 2/8/13.
1. Minnesota State (11-9-1, 17-9-3)
2. Ferris State (12-9-2, 14-11-4)
3. Alaska (11-9-3, 13-10-4)
4. Bowling Green (8-10-3, 11-13-5)
5. Lake Superior (8-13-1, 11-13-5)
6t. Northern Michigan (5-12-4, 11-13-4)
6t. Michigan Tech (5-12-4, 8-14-4)
8. Bemidji State (4-12-5, 5-16-6)
9. Seapups (2-15-6, 4-16-7)
10. Alabama-Huntsville (N/A, 3-18-1)
The huge elephant in the room here as you look at that list is that only 3 of the 10 teams have winning records. Granted, that's with existing conference records, but here you get an idea just at the strength of these teams in comparison to "stronger" competition. When you round this out to purely wins versus current teams under consideration, they look something like this.
1. Alaska (10-7-2 .5789)
2t. Minnesota State (8-9-1 .4722)
2t. Lake Superior (8-9-1 .4722)
4. Northern Michigan (8-10-3 .4524)
5. Ferris State (4-7-2 .3846)
6. Bowling Green (5-11-4 .3500)
7. Michigan Tech (3-12-3 .2500)
8. Bemidji State (3-12-2 .2353)
9. ACC (2-15-3 .1750)
10. Alabama-Huntsville (0-10-1 .0500)
Looking at it this way shows that only the Nanooks have a winning record against NCAA hockey teams whose RPI is .5000 or better. While Minnesota State has a better overall record than Alaska, they have benefitted from a weaker schedule, notably a non-conference schedule against Alabama-Huntsville, Connecticut, Brown, Providence, and RPI. Only two of which are above the TUC line. I'll leave this up to my fellow readers here to discuss in the comments. And again, we'll take another look at these numbers after the end of this season.
Also, just another tidbit here to close this out, the WCHA announced that it approved a plan to remove the previous playoff format which pitted the Nanooks and ACC to play each other in the first round of the WCHA playoffs every season. The new plan provides a more favored playoff format in a traditional bracket. The reasonings for the previous format was somewhat justified in last minute travel costs to Alaska should the Nanooks or (miraculously) Anchorage host a first round series. Most of the concern coming from Michigan State's issues getting up to Alaska for the first round of the playoffs in the 2010-11 season. I've heard multiple figures thrown out there, like $32,000 for the team to fly up on a Wednesday night booking the tickets on the previous Sunday, having to break up the team between 4 separate flights with not everyone getting to Fairbanks until Thursday morning. I don't know how true a lot of that is, but I believe the cost for 25 tickets from Detroit at that time of the year.
As I understand it, both Alaska schools along with UAH has agreed to extend the regular season travel subsidies agreed to in their contracts with the WCHA to the playoffs. So should teams have to travel to one of these outlying schools, the impact of last-minute travel arrangements should be minimized.
The WCHA tournament location is also in the process of being ironed out. The WCHA Final Five has historically been held at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis, however the Big Ten has laid claim to the XCel center next season, as well as in 2016, so the WCHA will likely alternate that venue with them, and likely the other location coming at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the home of the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.