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What are the most likely scenarios for Southeast Division realignment?

Jun 1, 2011, 12:49 AM EDT

The MTS hockey arena in seen on Portage Avenue in downtown Winnipeg Reuters

With the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, one of the first logistical questions revolves around the Southeast Division and next year’s schedule. The league has stated the Winnipeg Thrashjets will remain in the Southeast for the first season—but after next season, there will certainly be changes coming down the road. For a frame of reference, here are the distances between Winnipeg and their Southeast Division rivals next year:

Carolina: 1346 mi (2166 km)
Florida: 1893 mi (3047 km)
Tampa Bay: 1701 mi (2737 km)
Washington: 1246 mi (2005 km)

Now with the sale to True North completed and confirmed, the question of realignment is no longer “if and when” and more about “who and where.” When realignment goes down for the 2012-13 season, the three most likely suspects are the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Nashville Predators. Pierre LeBrun has already started asking around about the realignment question:

“But a league source told me recently that the reason realignment is being delayed a year is that the league wants to properly canvass all its governors and get everyone’s feedback on what is always a contentious issue. The Red Wings desperately want to move east. They’re tired of playing most of their games outside of their time zone, and it’s brutal for TV ratings when you’re asking your fans to stay up late to watch most of your road games. Having said that, many Western Conference governors will oppose losing Detroit because of the Wings’ gate power. So then, what to do? I think the league will examine all kinds of possibilities, perhaps use this opportunity to revamp the entire division and conference setup, not just plug in one team for another. There will be lots of talk and ideas leaked in the next 12 months.”

Detroit Red Wings: Detroit ownership has wanted the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference for the better part of two decades. Already in the Eastern time zone, West Coast road trips mean games are starting at 10:00 or 10:30 every night. For opponents, the games at Joe Louis arena start too early for West Coasters during the week. There’s a reason that teams three time zones apart, aren’t supposed to play each other four times per season.

Red Wings’ senior vice president Jimmy Devellano has made no secret of his desire for the team:

“(Realignment’s) going to be a long, tough process. We have our fingers crossed.”

“It’s a lot of wear and tear (on the players),” said Devellano, adding the cost of the travel for the Red Wings is an issue.

“Once in a while (the West Coast starting times are) OK, everybody has to do it. But we’ve had to do it many times. It’s difficult.”

Columbus Blue Jackets: Like the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets are also a Western Conference team stuck in the Eastern time zone. Since the time zone isn’t changing anytime soon, the other option is to switch conferences. Also like the Red Wings, attendance plays a factor in the decision—but for the opposite reason. The Red Wings bring in fans to opponents all over the Western Conference, but the Blue Jackets would love to create a rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins who are only 162 miles apart. By starting all of the Eastern Conference games at the same time, the Blue Jackets hope it would help with both building a stronger foundation with their fanbase and also help the ratings for Blue Jackets telecasts.

Nashville Predators: If the Predators were to move to the Southeast Division, they’d be the only team in the Eastern Conference that was not in the Eastern time zone. However, even though the city is in the central time zone, Nashville makes the most sense geographically. Just pull out a map for the best argument for the Predators moving to the Southeast. It makes sense for a team in the middle of Tennessee to play against Carolina, Florida, Tampa, and Washington.

Just how much power does the Detroit organization have with the NHL? It’s understandable that they’d want to move to the Eastern Conference—just like it’s understandable that the Predators and Blue Jackets management would want to move to the East. All would benefit from better start times and improved travel. But if the Red Wings flip, it has the potential to cost most of the Western Conference teams in terms of revenue and exposure. The struggling franchise in Columbus could gain stability from a better schedule. From a common sense point of view, Nashville just seems like the right market to slide into the Southeast Division. Regardless, let the lobbying begin!

Let’s throw this to the readers. If you could shift the Red Wings, Blue Jackets, or Predators to the Eastern Conference, who would it be?

  1. James - Jun 1, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    I’m more interested in what the West will look like. How many Canadian teams will they try to keep in the same division?

  2. bigtull - Jun 1, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Nashville to the SE, W’peg to the central next season. Then figure out what to do with the Wings and Jackets the following season.

  3. rave7215 - Jun 1, 2011 at 1:50 AM

    Move all 3 to the east, and create 2 new teams and place them in the west.

    ….No? o well I tried

  4. BlackandGoldMNBruinsFan - Jun 1, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Nashville makes the most sense…Detroit makes no sense, c’mon, you know they have no problem with a fan following…they do great whatever conference they’re in.

    There’s a hockey team in Columbus? What?

    • cannonblast14 - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:52 PM


  5. whatagreatfootballmind - Jun 1, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Nashville should go to the Southeast. It is the best geographical solution to fixing that division.

    Winnipeg should be placed in the Northwest with Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Colorado. It gives Winnipeg 3 Canadian rivals

    Minnesota should be moved to the Central. It gives them rivals closer to them. Bring back the old North Star rivalries with St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, (and Columbus).

    • hystoracle - Jun 1, 2011 at 10:22 AM

      Totally agree on Nashville. only makes sense. Should be done now or Winnipeg/NHL needs to subsidize the other three teams’ travel expenses for next year.

      “Winnipeg should be placed in the Northwest with Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Colorado. It gives Winnipeg 3 Canadian rivals ”

      interesting scenario. Only question would be who outside of Colorado in the US will even pay attention to that division? Won’t see too much of those teams on versus or NBC. I’m sure Canadian hockey fans don’t care but the coffers of the NHL might have a problem with it.

  6. govtminion - Jun 1, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Nashville makes the most sense… but I can’t help but wonder if we’ll end up just going through this again next year if Phoenix moves. Let’s say they head to Quebec (for example)- now do we need to move the Predators (or whomever) BACK to the West?

    What a mess.

    • whatagreatfootballmind - Jun 1, 2011 at 10:05 AM

      Maybe in that senario, Toronto heads back west and is placed in a division with Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, and St. Louis?

  7. islandersfan - Jun 1, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Strange as it is I actually think leaving the Jets in SE for a year (No more!) is a good idea … not because the move makes sense by itself but there are a couple other franchises that aren’t stable and may move. (hello Columbus, Phoenix, Florida) Why not spend the year determining their fate, moving them if necessary and THEN fx the divisions? It may not even be necessary to change teams much. What if say Columbus relocated to Hartford? (Just an example) the two moves would basically cancel each other out (maybe a small shift in east alignment but still..)

    I know it would be tough on a jets team I am VERY happy to see back but I dont want to “fix” things for this season oly to watch the NHL need to “fix” it again next year.

    • mdak06 - Jun 1, 2011 at 12:31 PM

      Very good point about future possible relocations.

      The Coyotes are a mess. If they haven’t found a local buyer in the next nine months or so, I’d think the NHL has to seriously consider moving them. Quebec and Kansas City appear to be the most likely relocation options. Columbus and Nashville are not in great shape either, and I’m not sure about Florida. Even the Islanders are a possible relocation team, although most likely they’d just move to Brooklyn if they left Uniondale.

      Short term, the best options are (1) no division realignment, (2) swap Winnipeg and Nashville (simplest realignment), or (3) Nashville to Southeast, Minnesota to Central, and Winnipeg to Northwest. Nashville is a good geographic fit with the rest of the Southeast division, even though it’s in the Central time zone. While I’m sure Winnipeg would be fine in a division with three Canadian rivals, I’m not convinced Colorado would be thrilled to be in a division with four Canadian teams.

      Long-term, there are more options depending on what teams relocate. One issue right now is that over half (16) of the 30 teams are in the Eastern Time Zone (6 are Central, 4 Mountain, 4 Pacific). Detroit really wants to move back to the east. An interesting idea I’ve heard would be to align the divisions geographically but NOT the conferences. Each conference (Campbell & Prince of Wales, anyone?) would have an eastern, central, and western division (or slight variations of those, i.e. Southeast, Northwest, etc.). It would put more “high draw teams” (other than just Detroit) in what is now the Western Conference.

      • hystoracle - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:15 PM

        I was surprised they didn’t move Phoenix back to Winnipeg where they came from.

      • bigtull - Jun 2, 2011 at 12:56 AM

        The Wings may as well get over it and stay put! The Tigers don’t seem to have any problems running all over the country and play twice the number of games.

  8. 2x2l - Jun 1, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Guys, no offense, but you’re all horrible at geography. You all think it “just makes sense” to move Nashville to the Southeast.

    FACT: The nearest Southeast division team (Raleigh) is actually farther away from Nashville than the most distant Central team (Detroit). Go look it up. Detroit is 534 miles away. Raleigh is 543 miles. Sure, North Carolina and Tennessee share a border, but there is a ton of space between those two arenas.

    FACT: Average distance from Nashville to all Southeast teams — 706 miles. Average distance from Nashville to all Central teams — 423 miles! On average, the teams of the Central division are much, much closer than those in the Southeast.

    FACT: Nashville and St. Louis are only 311 miles apart.

    The truth is that it makes almost no sense to move Nashville to the Eastern Conference. The team has great rivalries with teams in the West and almost no history with teams in the East. Things are finally starting to pick up in Nashville. Don’t mess with a good thing. Nashville is in the Central time zone. Nashville is much closer to the other Midwestern cities than those in the South. Even if that surprises you, it’s true.

    Hope this helps.

    • cannonblast14 - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:55 PM

      Nice job. So therefore it means Jackets have best chance to move to East? Because Columbus would be closer than Detroit.

      • hystoracle - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:11 PM

        that makes sense given the information provided.

    • whatagreatfootballmind - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:25 PM

      So then who would be in the southeast? Florida and Tampa are both obiously in. That leaves 3 spots, Carolina and Washington are already in. Then next logical would be Nashville. Unless you strech over to Dallas. Are you going to break up Philadelphia from instate rival with Pittsburgh? Would you move Columbus from teams who are closer to them such as Detroit, St. Louis, or Chicago? Your arguing over what 11 miles?

      • cannonblast14 - Jun 1, 2011 at 8:53 PM

        Its an argument of 11 miles from the FARTHEST central team, which is Detroit. Columbus would be much closer so it would be more than 11 miles. This along with Columbus is in Eastern time zone, need a rival, need to make the playoffs, need higher attendance, and Nashville having a good thing going in the Western conference all makes perfect sense for the CBJ to move to East over Nashville.
        I dont think Detroit should even be mentioned. They would pretty much have to fly over Columbus to get to get to some arenas.
        Seems like it would make more sense based on the information that 2x2l gave to move Columbus to Eastern conference

  9. widewordofsport - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    . Already in the Eastern time zone, West Coast road trips mean games are starting at 10:00 or 10:30 every night

    I know it’s just a blog, but that may be the worst sentence ever written. I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how West Coast road trips are in the Eastern time zone.

  10. cannonblast14 - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    I think that moving Columbus to the Eastern Conference makes the most sense. Moving them to the Easter Conference would help them financially (less travel money and more fans in building, plus easier to make playoffs). It would also help create a rivalry in Pitt. They really have no official rivalry now since the ‘rivalry’ is completely one sided and not really anything to Detroit, it would help Columbus fans and the market in Columbus.
    They are also in the eastern time zone, which Nashville is not.
    If the NHL moves Columbus to the Eastern Conference it could actually save the team. Save money, gain money, more fans, less travel, rivalries would all be huge for the owners and the team.

  11. bigtull - Jun 2, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    Dallas is and island in the middle of nowhere in the NHL. The SE Division may look good because they would only have to cross one time zone. Also, Dallas has a NFL rivalry with Washington anyway that could be exploited.

    • capsrockva - Jun 4, 2011 at 5:20 PM

      what rivalry? Both teams suck. Dallas should be moved to the Central

  12. capsrockva - Jun 4, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    while I agree w/ cannonblast14 on that makes the most sense, I don’t see that happening. here are my suggestions, Eastern Conf. ATL & NE leave them alone; if it ain’t broke don’t mess w/ it SE Wash,Car, TB,FL,(until they too move), & NAS, Western conf.
    Det, Dal,Chi,(Det & Chi have a long history), ST.Louis,(unless they too move, as currently they have no owner) give a teams to KC & either somewhere in Oregon , Wash, & COL.( from all the internet reading I’ve done, there is avid fan support in all 3) Create a new division, for the mountain time zone teams, PHX/COL/CAL/soon to be named in COL( wouldn’t it classic for another in state rivalry!!Also create a new team in southern VA, Good Rivalry for DC, share the arena in Norfolk w/ the Admirals, or build a new one and leave the Pacific alone except for Dal

    • lightningbolt3 - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      Are you high? Retarded? Or (I hope) just kidding?

  13. capsrockva - Jun 4, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Meaning FLA only

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