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Wings figure to benefit from Eastern Conference move

Aug 1, 2013, 7:02 PM EDT

Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings reacts to his goal with the bench to take a 1-0 lead over the Anaheim Ducks during the first period in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on May 2, 2013 in Anaheim, California. Getty Images

For years the Detroit Red Wings sat patiently, waiting for NHL realignment to move them into a more time-zone and travel friendly setup.

Now the wait is over.

Beginning next season, the Wings will play in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division along with the Bruins, Sabres, Panthers, Canadiens, Senators, Lightning and Maple Leafs.

Needless to say, players were thrilled to learn they’d be leaving the Western Conference, dramatically cutting down on cross-country flights.

“We’ve traveled back and forth, across the United States quite a bit,” Jimmy Howard told the Macomb Daily back in May. “To move to the East I think that would be a lot of fun to play a lot of games in the Eastern Time Zone. It would be great for our fans too, not having to stay up until all hours of the night to watch us.

“I think the travel sometimes takes years off of all of our lives.”

Traditionally one of the NHL’s most-traveled teams, Detroit figures to cut down its mileage in 2013-14. Some diligent work from SB Nation’s On The Forecheck suggests the Wings will log 35,324 miles — a far cry from the 42,865 they played in the last full NHL season (2011-12).

The real boon, though, might come in the playoffs.

The 2013 postseason was a tough one for Detroit, especially in the opening round. Its series with Anaheim went the full seven games, meaning the Wings had to endure five cross-country trips totaling more than 10,000 miles. There was also the endless switching of time zones (three hour difference), all of which took its toll.

“The worst is going back from [Pacific Standard Time] to the Eastern,” defenseman Kyle Quincey told MLive.com. “It’s a four- or five-hour flight with a three-hour time change. You get on a plane at 9 in the morning, you get home, the next thing you know you get back to your place and where did the day go?”

All that said, Detroit won’t escape the West entirely this year. It’ll have two significant swings: One through Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg from Oct. 30-Nov. 4, and another through Dallas, San Jose, L.A. and Anaheim from Jan. 4-12.

The move will also affect Detroit’s relationship with one of its biggest rivals — the Chicago Blackhawks. Whereas the two teams would meet routinely during the regular season, next year sees them face off just twice…something at least one Red Wing is OK with.

“I don’t think we’ll miss playing them six times a year,” said Niklas Kronwall.

  1. govtminion - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    The flip side, of course, is that they’ve got a tough division to play in. The old Central wasn’t exactly crap, naturally, but over the past decade the quality of play from the other four varied wildly (OK, maybe not Columbus). Coming into this new division, there’s some pretty hefty firepower here- Boston, Ottawa, a case to be made for the Leafs, Habs, and Lightning being difficult… and of course, there’s still the travel to the two Florida-based teams.

    I think overall they’ll be happier with the move, but they’re certainly not in for a cakewalk.

    • dirt2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 10:52 PM

      Have heard for years from Wings fans the the west was tougher.

      • fuggles42 - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        Because it’s true. In the last NHL full season, the Wings division went 85-56-24 against the east, with only Colombus posting a losing record. The Wings went 20-14-2. The teams in the east that make up the new Atlantic division went 17-20-4 against the Central, with only Boston and Toronto posting winning records. Numbers don’t lie, the Wings are moving from a tougher division to an easier one.

  2. cheliostwin - Aug 1, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    The beginning of the playoffs was slightly worse than they mentioned. The last game of the season the Wings had to be in Dallas, after playing the night before in Detroit. So they played in Detroit, flew through two time zones to play Dallas, flew home again (two time zone change), then a day later flew out to Anaheim (three time zone change.) That’s why the Red Wings was one of the first teams to get a private jet, Red Bird One, to fly them around the continent.

    • hockeydon10 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      One time zone. Dallas is in the Central Time Zone.

  3. kaptaanamerica - Aug 1, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    The Bruins, habs, and Sens will all contend for a playoff spot against the wings and maybe Tampa as well. It’s gonna be harder for every team in that division now that the wings are in the east.

  4. phillyphannn83 - Aug 1, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    Without even looking it up, I’m willing to bet large sums of money that Dallas and Detroit are NOT two (2) time zones apart.

    So how ’bout it, Cheliostwin?

  5. lvwingfan - Aug 1, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    Detroit is in the Eastern Time Zone and Dallas is Central, one zone away. Phillyphann wins. BTW, why is Phillyphann on a Detroit thread??

  6. crystalinadumass - Aug 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    @ lvwingfan

    BC Flyers haven’t won the cup since 75? Womp, womp, womp.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:57 PM

      If you’re gonna insult the Flyers atleast have it make sense. Answering why a Flyers fan is on a Wings page with 1975 is just lazy.

  7. tackledummy1505 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    I laugh at this, because everyone knows that the Eastern Conference playoffs are usually all out wars and can be very taxing on the players body. So yeah they might cut down on the travel time, but they should also look at it as more games where they’re going to have to grit down and play even harder games then the Western Conference that features more open ice and finesse type of playing. Good luck Detroit, we’ll see how much the travel distance will help versus the overall type of games.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      Right, same o same o kinda stuff we’re used to getting tossed at WC teams, especially high-skill WC teams. Look at interconference results last two seasons with inter-conference plan.

      Also heard folks like the Kings fans that the Hawks wern’t gonna be able to match up with the physical teams, as they’re “finesse”. Hmmm, Hawks went 8/3 against those “physical teams”.

  8. crystalinadumass - Aug 2, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    Wings took Blackhawks to game 7 in OT, Bruins lost in 6. The other teams don’t really scare me. I think the Wings will do just fine. Especially if Howard continues to play like he did in playoffs. I’m not going to say more rest n less flight time would have won them the cup, but I’m def interested to see how it plays out. I can only assume more rest will pay off.

  9. crystalinadumass - Aug 2, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    @ Philly

    A flyers fan would know about lazy. Clearly what you don’t comprehend is sarcaaaaaaasm.

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