October 13, 2011
There are two franchises at the heart of the next round of NHL realignment, whose configuration will be determined at a December Board of Governors meeting.
The first are the Winnipeg Jets, who are currently and awkwardly occupying the Atlanta Thrashers' former spot in the Southeast Division. The second are the Detroit Red Wings, who feel they've done their hard time in the Western Conference and want to move to the East.
TSN's Bob McKenzie, who reported on Tuesday night that a straight-up Winnipeg/Detroit swap is possible, broke down the issues for Detroit:
As for the travel issue, every Western Conference team has it rough, but Detroit quite often finds itself travelling to the Pacific Time zone for the first two rounds of the playoffs -- Phoenix and San Jose was last year's exactor but Anaheim usually figures in there, too. And for a team that usually goes deep into the playoffs, the Wings contend they are at a severe travel and competitive disadvantage in the playoffs with that much travel in the first two or three rounds of the playoffs.
Yes, the Wings have had quite the severe competitive disadvantage, haven't they? But we digress …
Realignment's a tricky subject. Several teams believe they have a right to shift conferences or move from one division to another more geographically agreeable one. The consensus is that the Jets are a lock to move to the West and the Red Wings are the most likely to flip to the East … but what if Detroit stays put?
McKenzie's colleague Darren Dreger said the Wings have offered a concession: Keep us in the West, but give us a much more favorable schedule in the regular season.
Here's Dreger on NHL Live (video here), breaking down the realignment derby:
"Everybody I talk to believes that the Detroit Red Wings are going to head back into the Eastern Conference. That would be the easy fix … and boy, wouldn't it real easy if you could simply swap out Winnipeg for Detroit? It's not going to be that simple because there are going to be Western Conference teams that we know are going to put up a fight.
"We know that the Dallas Stars have interests in moving into another division. We know the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators have expressed an interest because of geographics in moving into the Eastern Conference. But those that I talk to believe it will be Detroit that ultimately prevails.
"Now, in talking to some close to the Detroit Red Wings in the past few weeks I can tell you that they're not as convinced. And there are high-ranking authorities within the National Hockey League that aren't as convinced either."
As for the concession for the Red Wings, this is it:
"Detroit has offered an interesting concession in all of this: a willingness to stay in the Western Conference if they only have to travel into Western Canada once instead of twice, and they only have to go into California once instead of twice.
"So hey, Detroit's trying to play nice in the sandbox here. They're offering concessions."
Essentially, keep the Red Wings in the West but have the NHL treat their long Western road trips like it would an Eastern Conference team's -- one trip out per city, and that's it.
This would take some fiddling around with the schedule, but it would maintain the Red Wings as a significant draw in the Western Conference rather than shifting their popularity (and national ratings) to the East. You'd then have a chance to shift the Predators or Blue Jackets to the East in a flip-flop with Winnipeg.
Is this something you think would benefit the NHL? Or should the Wings just move East?
Whatever the realignment decision, it'll take a two-thirds majority to pass it according to Dreger. Should be fascinating. Here's the Dreger insider segment in its entirety.
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