Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Columbus "On The Clock" For Realignment?

The buzz over NHL realignment next year – and the possibility of Columbus Blue Jackets moving to the Eastern Conference – has been more like a dull roar since Atlanta-to-Winnipeg became official.

Expect it to get a little louder.

Today the NHL board of governors took the important first step of discussing that possibility of realignment for the 2012-13 season.

The conclusion they drew today was that there has to be a decision by December, so the NHL scheduling process can begin on time.

This is all well and good. It's a good thing to have goals. But will Phoenix's seemingly endlessly fluid situation mess up that deadline, or at least the NHL's ability to meet it?

Obviously, my goal here is not to rain on the parade for Blue Jackets fans. Anybody reading this space knows that I'm among the loudest supporters of moving East. But in all honesty, unless the ownership situation in Phoenix gets straightened out and secured in the next couple months, there's no certainty as to where they'll go.

Coyotes fans have been in limbo for the better part two years now. I've also said before I'd rather have the Coyotes stay in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, there are some cities absolutely stoked up the possibility of getting a team. I know Qu├ębec City has been one of the loudest lately. Kansas City has had an NHL-ready arena for a few years now. Some digging on my part produced a Bleacher Report piece discussing the pros and cons of some other potential markets --  including Portland, Seattle, Milwaukee, Houston, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. No need to go into any details beyond that, since we just don't know. If things go well the next few weeks in Columbus, new markets don't even have to be in our vocabulary.

The Coyotes' limbo status doesn't have to mess up the entire realignment process if they wind up moving. The NHL could essentially go to a similar plan as this year's: Should the Coyotes move east after the alignment is determined, maybe they just have to suck up a long commute for a year, then take it from there.

I think we can safely operate under the assumption that the powers that be already have something in mind, in case the Coyotes wind up moving somewhere.

But as far as Columbus is concerned, we now have a definitive idea when we'll get some news on realignment. So, I guess for now, we keep our fingers crossed. Good or bad... we should know something by the holidays.

Maybe our team will get the best present ever? (nudge nudge, wink wink)

Let the roar for realignment commence....

Go Jackets!

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