Possible Eastern Conf. Realignment: Do the Columbus Blue Jackets Stand a Chance?
As soon as the Phoenix Coyotes postseason ended, talks began on the team moving to Winnipeg and bringing the Jets back into the National Hockey League.
However, the city of Glendale had other plans as they put forth $25 million to cover the losses and keep the team in the desert for one more season.
Quickly, the focus was shifted to Atlanta, where the Thrashers struggle to find a buyer to keep the team in Atlanta.
Monday, it was reported that Thrashers ownership and True North had begun discussions about a possible sale of the team and a move to Winnipeg.
It seems that as each day passes and a possible buyer does not come forward, hockey in Atlanta seems all but over. Unfortunately, this would not be the first time Atlanta has suffered such a crushing blow as in 1980, the Flames were sold and moved to Calgary.
If the team is in fact sold, Winnipeg would likely join the Western Conference, meaning a Western Conference team would move east.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the teams that has shown a large interest in moving into the Eastern Conference.
The move would substantially cut travel costs, as well as the fatigue that comes with cross country road trips. A move to the East would also bring more home games against Alex Ovechkin's Capitals and Sidney Crosby's Penguins, who are both big draws in Columbus.
The money saved from travel would be a huge help as the Columbus Dispatch reported that the Blue Jackets estimated total losses for last season were around $25 million.
The Blue Jackets would be all smiles if they were able to move into the Southeast Division, as they have fared well, posting a 18-2-4 record in the past four seasons.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they are not the heavy favorites to make the move if the conferences were to re-align.
Most have said that if any team were to go East, it would be the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have had an interest in moving to the Eastern Conference for quite some time and there has even been rumors that they already had "dibs" on the move.
However, the NHL Board of Governors have stated that no such agreement has been made between the two and no team has the upper hand on anyone.
If the Red Wings were to move to the Eastern Conference, that would put five of the Original Six teams in the Eastern Conference, leaving only Chicago as the only nationally marketable team in the Western Conference.
Although both teams currently in the Western Conference Finals, San Jose and Vancouver, are big draws, neither has fans that span across the entire country, like Chicago and Detroit do. Keeping Detroit in the West would be the only way to keep the Original Six as even as it possibly could.
Another issue with the Red Wings move to the East is the fact that the Western Conference has been a much more competitive conference than the East in years past.
With how the Red Wings match up against Eastern Conference opponents, the Red Wings could most likely represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals every year. As much as Wings' fans would appreciate that, I don't think the rest of the league would be so accepting.
According to the Dispatch, when asked about the possibility of re-alignment, the Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano stated that the team was not going anywhere for now.
"We’re going to be right where we are next year. Beyond that, I can’t comment. Next year we’re right where we are.”
Now this quote could mean two things. It could mean that Detroit would rather stay in the Western Conference than move to the Southeast Division. Or it could mean that there may not be enough time for conference realignment by the time the sale of the Thrashers goes through.
Several people have said that there is a chance that if Winnipeg were to get a team by next season, they would spend one season in the Southeast Division and then the conferences would be realigned at the end of the year.
This could also be done to prevent having to realign two years in a row if the Coyotes are moved after next season.
Regardless, it seems Detroit is still the front runner.
Another team that has been mentioned as potential movers are the Nashville Predators.
The Preds would make conference realignment easier for the league as they could just slide into the open slot left by the Thrashers in the Southeast Division.
One of the only problems with the Predators move is that they play in the Central Time Zone. They would also be losing some of the newer rivalries formed with Detroit and Chicago.
With the success that the the Predators had in the playoffs this season, the team has seen an increase in attendance as well as local and corporate support and finally have a buzz surrounding the team.
Some have said that the Predators are fine right where they are and the Blue Jackets financial troubles show that they would benefit from the move more.
With promises of a higher payroll for Columbus, the team is going to need a way to cut costs somewhere and a move to the Eastern Conference would do that.
A move would create new marketing initiatives that could help the team rebound from their financial losses.
In their ten years of existence as a franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets have struggled against the Western Conference, only making the postseason one time.
If the Jackets were granted the move to the Eastern Conference, combined with filling the necessary holes in the lineup, the Blue Jackets could find success and could give the fans another postseason birth that they desperately want.
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