The NHL powers that be will be meeting in December, and one of the hottest topics on the agenda is conference realignment. Many assume that means moving Winnipeg to the West and either Detroit, Columbus or Nashville to the East. While that could be the case, there also calls for a complete overhaul of the current setup.
The Red Wings have been very open and their fans very vocal about their desire to move east. It would greatly reduce travel, wipe out the crazy amount of 10:30pm start times and rekindle rivalries with teams like Toronto and Montreal.
What if the old saying be careful what you wish for, you just might get it, comes true for the Wings. A move to the east may make things tougher on the Wings.
Since 2000, the East has won the Stanley Cup six times. If taking out the Wings wins, then the West only has three over that same period. While the West has certainly not been a pushover, the east has produced more winners. A move to the East would mean a tougher time in making the playoffs than a tougher road once in them.
This is the type of goalie that has stymied the Wings in previous playoff matchups. Would getting upset in the first round be acceptable, if all of the games started at 7:30 instead of 10:30?
Pronger has long been a thorn to the Red Wings. Fans were happy to see him go to the Philly in the East. I bet Jiri Hudler is secretly lobbying behind the scenes for the team to stay in the west. The last time they played, Pronger rode Hudler into the net like the quarter pony at Wal-Mart.
Detroit has a special level of disdain when it comes to Sidney Crosby. While many cities tend to have a love/hate view towards him, Detroit seems to be all hate. If moved to the East, then Detroit would have to see him more often throughout the season. While this does give them more opportunities to beat him and perhaps see him get Kronwalled, it also means that he will have more chances to rip Detroit’s heart out.
Road Game Tickets
One of the reasons given for the Red Wings to not leave the West is that they draw fans to watch them while on the road. Part of the reason that Wing’s fans travel so well is that tickets are much easier to get in the West. Of the bottom 13 teams in attendance percentage, eight are from the West. It will be more difficult to get tickets for a game in Pittsburgh or Buffalo than it has been for games in Columbus or Nashville.
Last season, the two worst teams in the league belonged to the West. This year, four of the bottom six belong to the West. While the top of both leagues is very solid, it's nice to be able to pad your record against the bottom dwellers.
The Season Gauntlet
While fans love the thought of playing against Toronto more often, most of the players on the roster have no connection to that old rivalry. They are used to Chicago, St Louis, San Jose and Colorado as rivals. While you like to think all games are treated the same, it's difficult for a player to get up for every single game.
A move east, would mean new teams and extra excitement for playing all of these new teams. It would also be a challenge to not only get up for each of these new conference mates but also having a target on you for 82 games. Such a fate may be too much to handle and wear the team out over an entire season.
While it may not be harder for the Wings themselves, it may provide an interesting challenge to the fans. After being so used to watching late night games before dragging their exhausted bodies to bed, fans will now have games ending much earlier. What are fans to do with all that free time and left-over energy? A move east may mean a population boom for the Detroit area.
While none of these concerns are deal breakers, it's important to know that the move needs to be more than just game times. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we will learn what the NHL plans on doing.