NHL CBA Proposal: Winnipeg, Columbus to Switch Divisions in 2013?

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NHL CBA Proposal: Winnipeg, Columbus to Switch Divisions in 2013?
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One final detail to trickle out of the NHL's 300-page Friday collective-bargaining proposal may just send a 7.0 earthquake of sudden surprise rippling through two major hockey cities.

Hours after many of the proposal's key points hit the airwaves, news broke that the CBA, if accepted, would switch the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2013-14 season.

The Jets would move from the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division to occupy the former Blue Jackets' spot in the Western Conference's Central Division, joining Chicago, Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Columbus would take the Jets' Southeast Division place alongside Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Washington.

Winnipeg was stuck in the Southeast for the 2011-12 season after the team relocated from Atlanta the previous summer.

Current geographical layout of all 30 NHL teams. (Photo courtesy of thehockeynetwork.com.)

If the realignment goes through, the Jets are in store for a fantastic travel reduction in 2013-14.

Given the NHL schedule format of three road games per season against division opponents and two road games against conference opponents, the Jets traveled approximately 106,000 miles (including there-and-back distances) within the conference.

With a switch to the West, Winnipeg would travel only 81,000 miles to visit conference opponents—25,000 fewer miles than before.

Interestingly enough, however, Columbus' travel would actually be reduced even more by the change.

To face conference opponents, the Blue Jackets had to travel 82,000 miles round-trip while in the West, but they would need to traverse only 39,000 if in the East—a 43,000-mile drop.

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On the other hand, competitive balance could be a minor concern.

Columbus posted a league-worst record of 29-46-7 in 2011-12 and would be joining a Southeast Division that scored the fewest points, as a whole, of any division last season.

Conversely, Winnipeg would be joining a Central Division that, had the Jets been a member in 2011-12, would have been only one point below the best division in the NHL (the Atlantic).

As the next few days sizzle with anticipation and anxiety over the NHL's latest proposal, Winnipeg and Columbus' swap will certainly garner its fair share of attention. Expect Detroit, Dallas and Nashville to all raise a fuss over the Blue Jackets' selection to shift conferences.

Regardless of the sure-to-be-fiery debate, though, it's important to remember:

Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 440 articles and received over 775,000 reads. 

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