With the Thrashers officially headed for the Great White North, NHL realignment discussions are propping up all over North America.
ESPN’s top gurus Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside discussed the scenario, today, and here’s what LeBrun said about moving the Red Wings to the East:
The obvious realignment to me is this: Detroit goes East, Winnipeg into the Northwest, Colorado into the Pacific, Dallas into the Central.
But Lebrun wasn’t completely confident the Wings were a lock to make the jump. The problem? The rest of that darned Western Conference:
But a league source told me recently that the reason realignment is being delayed a year is that the league wants to properly canvass all its governors and get everyone’s feedback on what is always a contentious issue. The Red Wings desperately want to move east. They’re tired of playing most of their games outside of their time zone, and it’s brutal for TV ratings when you’re asking your fans to stay up late to watch most of your road games. Having said that, many Western Conference governors will oppose losing Detroit because of the Wings’ gate power.
I’m sorry but I call BS on this. It is NOT the Red Wings’ job to draw fans for other teams. Maybe those teams should focus on building a better fan base than relying on big draws for the two-to-three times Detroit comes to town. I bet Mike Ilitch feels the same way, and he will mention this when realignment is dealt with by the Board of Governors.
Burnside wasn’t as quick to jump on the Red Wings-to-the-East wagon, however:
I think a simple swap of Detroit for Atlanta/Winnipeg is short-sighted and would be a significant blow to the two-conference setup that has, I think, worked pretty well. You could lose the divisions, as far as I am concerned, especially given that they have no bearing on the playoff seeding. You play an unbalanced schedule that includes six games against each division rival, then throw that out the window come playoff time and seed one through eight based on points.
Winnipeg will eventually play in the West, but the question is who is going to replace them in the East. As is pointed out in the ESPN article, realignment is all going to hinge on the Phoenix Coyotes situation. Phoenix is staying put for at least another year, but it is anything but certain that they will remain there in the future. If Phoenix moves east to say, Quebec City, it would throw the NHL alignment all out of whack again.