After this past weekend's rumors, it would seem as if the citizens of Manitoba have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. While Winnipeg fans rejoice in the news that their team may finally be returning after a 15 year hiatus, the NHL is in for tough decisions regarding league re-alignment, which is sure to draw the displeasure of one or more of its hockey clubs.
The problem? That's simple. The NHL will have to move one club from the Western Conference to the East.
The solution? Not so simple. Multiple teams are tossing their name in to make the jump to the East, and there's only one spot open. No matter which team the NHL chooses to move East, it has already been made clear that the move will not take place until the 2012-2013 season, and Winnipeg will play in the Southeast division in the upcoming season.
The Detroit Red Wings appear to be the popular choice to make the move, but that change is much more complicated than what meets the eye. Moving Detroit would break up long-lasting rivalries in the Western Conference such as Detroit/Chicago and Detroit/Colorado, and it would also destroy the rising rivalry of Detroit/San Jose.
Not only would the Red Wings lose their well-established rivalries in the West, but the West would lose its biggest market—something it sorely lacks compared to the East.
Five out of the six most valuable teams in the league reside in the Eastern Conference, while Detroit is the only one in the West. The argument could also be made that Detroit sells out arenas in cities—such as Phoenix, Colorado and Dallas—that otherwise rarely sell out. From a business standpoint, moving Detroit to the Eastern Conference could cause an already struggling Western Conference to crumble financially.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are another popular choice for the Eastern Conference jump, but they too have consequences to division re-alignment. If Columbus moves, they almost certainly will not make a permanent home in the Southeast division, which means another club will have to be moved to the division. This team would likely come from the Atlantic division, breaking up either the Pennsylvania rivalry (by moving Pittsburgh or Philadelphia), or the New York area rivalry (by moving the Devils).
The third, and perhaps most unpopular, choice the NHL has is to move the Nashville Predators to the Eastern Conference.
This move would easily transition the Predators into Atlanta's former spot in the Southeast division, and would keep the East's other divisions from being disrupted. This move could also strengthen the Predators financial status by being an above average team in the more favored of the two conferences.
When weighing the pros and cons to each possible choice, moving the Predators to the Eastern Conference is the most sensible choice for the National Hockey League and the individual organizations.