According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL proposed that the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will move to the Eastern Conference for the start of the 2013-14 season. The Feb. 23 report states that the Red Wings would be placed in an eight-team division with three other Original Six teams: Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens:
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 24, 2013
According to Friedman, all teams have seen the new proposal this week:
Friedman joined the Hotstove Tonight panel on Saturday night, and said that the revamped realignment proposal was presented to all the individual teams this past week, while the players have yet to get a look at it.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he had heard the league proposed to move the Red Wings, but he hadn’t heard where. He said he’d be in favor of it.
Holland’s non-response was very telling in that he likely didn’t want to go on record confirming the Red Wings’ move to the East, but he didn’t want to deny it either.
This move benefits the Red Wings as they will be reunited with the Bruins, Maple Leafs and Canadiens, resuming long-standing rivalries. By playing each other more than twice a season, these teams will quickly grow to dislike each other—especially if they meet in the playoffs.
Khan captures most of the positives involved with the Red Wings’ proposed move:
The Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are the only Western Conference clubs in the eastern time zone. A move east would reduce Detroit’s travel substantially. Television and fans would benefit with more road games starting in prime time. And the Red Wings would have more games against Original Six rivals Toronto, Montreal and Boston.
Khan also talks about the positives this move can have in the playoffs:
It would also be a huge advantage in the playoffs, which would be entirely within the conference. So the Red Wings wouldn’t be making any West Coast trips in the postseason, like they have for many years, unless they reached the Stanley Cup finals.
“I think the travel sometimes takes years off all our lives,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “I think (moving East) would be great for us from the travel, even though we’re all used to it now. It would be a lot of fun to play a lot of games in the eastern time zone.”
The one added benefit that no one is really talking about, but will have a big impact, is that this will make Detroit an even more desirable free agent destination. As Jimmy Howard mentioned, the players get tired of all the travel and it was a drawback that the Red Wings were in the Western Conference.
If free agents have similar offers from two teams, they might look at issues like travel and divisions in making their final decisions. Having the Red Wings in the Western Conference might not put off a free agent completely, but it could hamper the Red Wings’ chances. That is why the shorter travel can only be a positive.
While the NHL’s board of governors and the NHLPA still to need to approve this alignment, it appears that this plan satisfies all NHL teams and makes sense for the league as well.
The only negative part of the proposed realignment is that the Red Wings would no longer be in the same division as their current Original Six rival, the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit and Chicago are in the same division in every other major sport and it would be a loss to only face them once or twice a year.
That being said, what the Red Wings lose in their rivalry with the Blackhawks, they more than make up for with the Bruins, Maple Leafs and Canadiens. All in all, this is news that will make the Red Wings franchise, and their fans, winners all around. Now we just have to remain optimistic that the realignment proposal gets approved.