Monday, December 5, 2011

Last Word on Realignment(?)

There is a chance that we might get the final answer this week about whether Columbus will move to the Eastern Conference of the NHL for the 2012-13 season. It has been a hot topic, especially in the cities of Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville. All three teams would certainly love to take Winnipeg's place in the East.

And why not? After all, the winner of the Eastern conference sweepstakes truly has greener pastures waiting on the other side.

Now, I do not think I'm the only one (in fact I think it's a pretty acceptable assumption) that a Columbus/Nashville/Detroit-for-Winnipeg swap into the Eastern Conference and Southeast Division is highly unlikely. With Winnipeg lying so much further west than Detroit and Nashville (and even Minnesota, in the Northwest Division), I think a directs swap putting Winnipeg into the Central is just weird, though Nashville and perhaps even Columbus would be at least okay geographically for the Southeast.

Now, do I think that an adjustment of the six division format is workable? Probably. However, I would have to say that I somewhat favor the idea of a four-division alignment that allows at least a home-and-home series against every team. I do very much like the idea of being able to play teams like Detroit (because Columbus in Detroit likely will be split up), Pittsburgh, and Boston at least twice each year. I think it's good for this sport when everyone has a chance to visit every arena. So, I think that's how the NHL is going to make it work.

However that same lingering question is burning in three cities: Who gets to move east?

Well, for the sake of argument, I have compiled a short list of pros and cons for Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville.

Let's start with COLUMBUS:

1) It gets Columbus out of the Central Division. Let's face it, being in the Central is murder. Moving east helps the team in terms of being able to compete. While boosting the Eastern Conference with a better team that makes the conference tougher.
2) It makes sense geographically... Columbus is at least east of Detroit (which I suppose is a kind of weak argument, as the difference is like a fraction of a degree on the globe).
3) It's almost as fun to hate Pittsburgh as it is to hate Detroit.

1) Honestly, despite how lopsided it is, I'd miss playing Detroit six times a season. They are a very hated (and natural) rival.
2) Whether Detroit or Columbus moves, Columbus would likely lose a couple easy sellouts of Nationwide Arena. Whether the fans in red sweaters are actually real Detroit fans or just WalMart WingNuts, they're still selling out Nationwide Arena and spending money.

Now let's look at DETROIT:

Pros (for them)
1) Easily steamroll through the Eastern Conference, guaranteed Stanley Cup Finals berth for at least the next 3-4 years.

Pros (for league)
1) Make good on some supposed promise Gary Bettman made to Mike Ilitch.
2) Quiet the whining Red Wing masses who want the team to have easy travel in the Playoffs, because it's SO HARD being in the Western Conference. (News flash, Detroit: Your team has won four Cups in the last 15 years as a member of the Western Conference... only New Jersey and Colorado have more than one in that span... your team is doing just fine).

1) See "Pros (for them)" above.
2) Five of the Original Six would be in the Eastern Conference, and that's too lopsided. It's bad marketing for the Original Six. You need at least one Original Six pairing in a conference. Detroit vs. Chicago? C'mon... that's classic right there
3) Easy incentive for Todd Bertuzzi to re-sign with Detroit... sign one more year, win Cup, and retire having spit in the face of the sport of hockey one last time.


1) Similarly to Columbus, gets Preds out of the Central Division. Despite its success, Nashville is having a hard time consistently keeping up with the leaders of the pack in Detroit and Chicago.
2) Similarly to Columbus, gives the Eastern Conference a better and tougher team. Good potential to develop some good regional rivalries, however the NHL winds up realigning the teams in the Southeastern U.S.

1) I guess the Central would miss them. They're a damn good hockey team that helps make the Central as tough as it is, but a four-division realignment would probably remedy that, anyway.

To my fellow Blue Jackets fans... I'll be completely honest. I'm not holding my breath for Columbus to move East.

For the record, whatever the divisional format may be -- and biased I very well am --  I think the Jackets absolutely should move east.

I think the Original Six argument I stated above is just as compelling an argument against Detroit, as the fact that Detroit would crush the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future. However, if Gary Bettman made some sort of foolish promise to Mike Ilitch years ago for preferential treatment come realignment time, then my money says he's more than likely going to kiss that ass, so he doesn't come out looking like a hypocrite.

Thus, the Jackets will have to make the best of it.

Or, just hope that the governors in the Eastern Conference realize that putting Detroit in the Eastern Conference would be suicide, and vote down the plan.

Or at least hope that Bertuzzi takes up lion taming, or cliff-jumping or something, before the 2012-13 season.

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  1. The one thing that may subtly favor Columbus moving east is that a four Division alignment with Columbus in the Central puts all four recent expansion teams; Columbus, Nashville, Minnesota, and Atlantapeg all in the same Division. The other three Divisions would not have so many juicy points as they are used to having.

  2. That IS intriguing... though I wouldn't classify the Wild or Preds as pushovers by any means.

    Pair that with the idea that five of the Original Six in one conference is a bad idea, and Columbus might have something.

    I just have no confidence in Bettman getting it right