Red Wings have eyes on Eastern Conference, but move won't happen next season
Published: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 8:00 AM
By Ansar Khan MLive.com
A move to the Eastern Conference would help Detroit save on travel and provide more Original Six matchups.
DETROIT -- The Atlanta Thrashers appear destined for Winnipeg, but the move won't enable the Detroit Red Wings to shift to the Eastern Conference -- at least for the 2011-12 season.
"We're not moving anywhere next year, that's a fact," Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said Monday.
Could the Red Wings move to the East in 2012-13?
"We've got our fingers and toes crossed," Devellano said.
The Red Wings for many years have pushed for a move to the Eastern Conference. Their travel would be reduced substantially, most of their road games would have earlier starting times for TV, and they would have more games against Original Six rivals Toronto and Montreal.
The Globe and Mail reported that an agreement has been reached to sell the Thrashers to a group based in Winnipeg and could be announced as early as Tuesday. The NHL has denied the report, saying no deal is done. Other media outlets in Canada have reported that a move is inevitable in the next couple of weeks.
But it's apparently too late for realignment because the 2011-12 schedule is close to being finalized. So if the Thrashers move to Winnipeg, they will remain in the Southeast Division for the upcoming season.
However, Winnipeg surely would transfer to the Western Conference the following season, likely joining a division with fellow Western Canadian teams Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, as well as Colorado.
That would shift Minnesota to the Central Division, along with Chicago and St. Louis. After that, the NHL has a few realignment options.
The league might opt to move Detroit to the East, perhaps placing it in the Northeast Division along with Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Buffalo. Boston would join the Greater New York teams (Rangers, Islanders and Devils) and Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh could move to the Southeast, joining Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.
In this case, Columbus and Nashville would remain in the Central Division.
The dilemma for the NHL is that most Western Conference teams, particularly those in the Central, surely don't want to lose Detroit. And the league might be hesitant to split up Detroit and Columbus, currently the only Western Conference clubs based in the Eastern Time Zone.
Another option is to move Nashville into Atlanta's former spot in the Southeast, keeping Detroit, Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis together, along with Minnesota. In this case, Nashville would be the only Eastern Conference club in the Central Time Zone.
There also has been some speculation of a significant realignment in 2012-13. One possibility is scrapping the East-West format for a North-South divide, putting an equal number of Eastern and Western cities in each conference, making travel more balanced for all teams.