One of the top storylines for the first half of the season will be realignment. After a summer-long debate of the different scenarios, it didn’t take long in this young season for it to fire back up again.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie set off a firestorm on Twitter last night with this series of tweets in relation to realignment:
More and more NHL governors convinced DET will be moving to SE Div in Eastern Conference when realignment done in early December. If DET goes to SE (East), it's plausible and possible WPG could take DET's place in Central Div (West). Realignment would be done.
Nothing firm yet on realignment, but DET has been good soldier in West for long time. WPG would be fine with Central as opposed to NW. If that happened, DAL would be most unhappy. Stars want in Central Div. OK, that's all the realignment talk. Discuss amongst yourselves.
OK, I lied, one more on realignment. NHL not likely to create division with 1 CDN and 4 US teams, or vice versa. (No VAN-EDM-CGY-WPG-MIN). Actually, on last tweet scratch vice versa. NHL won't put MIN in otherwise all CDN division. WPG said to be cool being in Central with 4 US.
So what happened to all of the ‘radical realignment’ talk that surfaced in June? Wasn’t it a shoo-in that the NHL was going to change to a setup that included four time zone-based divisions? Apparently not.
Last week, NHL.com’s E.J. Hradek wrote that there doesn’t seem to be much desire to make a drastic change at this point in time. Of course, things could change more than once prior to the Board of Governors meeting in early December, which is widely thought of as the key point for realignment to be settled in time for the 2012-13 season.
(All of this would be solved if the Phoenix Coyotes’ future isn’t in the desert and they happen to move east… but when all that mess is actually figured out is anyone’s guess.)
Detroit moving to the Southeast Division wouldn’t make any geographical sense; but then again, Dallas currently resides the Pacific Division, so it’s an imperfect system without a perfect solution.
Detroit, Columbus and Nashville are the three teams bargaining hard for a move to the Eastern Conference. Obviously, Detroit has the most pull of the three – and they’ve made it clear that they would prefer to move to the East.
The biggest fuss about the Red Wings potentially shifting conferences is that the West would lose its major tenant and teams would suffer because of how many Detroit fans make their presence felt in visiting arenas. Example: Whenever the Wings travel to Anaheim or Phoenix (or anywhere else in the West), red jerseys litter those arenas.
However, no matter where Detroit ends up, an expected switch to a balanced schedule would make all of that irrelevant for the west coast teams. (In a balanced schedule, teams would play interdivision clubs twice – once in each building – and divisional opponents up to eight times.) It’d be teams within Detroit’s division that would suffer at the gate with the Wings’ absence.
The best option in realignment is to just simply move Columbus to the Southeast. Rivalries wouldn’t be affected, and the Jackets would actually, you know, have a chance at the playoffs. Additionally, their fans would be able to watch more road games, not having to stay up until 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. when the Jackets head west (which affects TV ratings drastically).
The West needs Detroit (more than Detroit needs the West), and Nashville – though they make the best geographical sense – would be the only Central Time Zone in the Eastern Conference. But as Hradek reported, Detroit and Nashville are the two likely candidates to make the move.
Since there is no perfect solution, not everyone is going to come out happy. And the debating will continue until the NHL officially makes a decision on how everything will shake out.
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