NHL: Detroit Red Wings to Move East—It's All over but the Rubber-Stamping

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIOctober 2, 2011

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 30: Mike Brown #18 of the Toronto Maple Leafs tries to split the defense of Ian White #18 and Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Detroit Red Wings during a pre season game at Joe Louis Arena on September 30, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  Toronto won the game 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Yesterday in a small article in a local newspaper, it was announced that Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings, publicly stated that Commissioner Gary Bettman has told him that Detroit will be the team to switch conferences with Winnipeg for the 2012-13 NHL season.

Ilitch would not have made the announcement if it wasn't true, so unofficially, count on Detroit to be Winnipeg's trading partner.

Detroit was in a competition with Nashville and Columbus to move east, since all three teams resent the long travel time and expenses of being stuck in the NHL's Western Conference.

Actually it wasn't much of a competition since Detroit has far more clout and prestige than the other two teams and a bettor would have been making a very safe choice if he was asked to speculate who would be trading places with Winnipeg.

Detroit had been petitioning the NHL for such a switch for many years and now its wish will be granted.

It goes without saying that Detroit was probably Winnipeg's best secret supporter when it made its successful attempt to wrest the Thrashers out of Atlanta.

It is open to speculation as to whether the league made little resistance to that move, just to get Detroit, Nashville or Columbus off its realignment back. Quite a contrast to its stubborn stand in the Phoenix situation.

Detroit will be glad to welcome back traditional rivals Boston, Montreal, New York Rangers and especially Toronto.

Buffalo and Ottawa and probably Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington will also be welcomed rivals.

The only sour grapes for the Red Wings will be losing Chicago as a division rival, but they won't lose much sleep about it.

Detroit will probably be not placed in the Southeast Division so expect a domino realignment of the Eastern Conference divisions.


Geographically, this would make the most sense:


New York Islanders-New York Rangers-New Jersey-Montreal-Boston

Philadelphia-Washington-Carolina-Florida-Tampa Bay


The official rubber-stamping of the switch will occur at the owners meeting in December. 

At that time, there will also be speculation as to whether the NHL will also consider an NFL- type alignment of two conferences made up four four-team divisions. Such a move would also mean almost immediate NHL expansion to a symmetrical 32 teams.

But for now, this is Detroit's swan song in the west. For teams struggling to make the playoffs out there, Winnipeg will be welcomed.

For the east, teams like Florida, New York Islanders, Toronto and Ottawa who continually struggle to return to the playoffs and for borderline cities like New York Rangers, Buffalo, Montreal, Carolina and New Jersey, making the playoffs got whole lot tougher.