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Wednesday September 21, 2011 3:52 am
NHL realignment to come next season?
To say the geographical situation in the NHL is less than desirable would be an understatement. With the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg (to play as the Winnipeg Jets) means that the Jets will have some of the most arduous travel schedule in history, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman thinks he has a solution to the problem, and he’ll spend the next two and a half months reviewing the situation.
The NHL couldn’t realign the conferences for this season because the announcement of the Atlanta move came so late in the summer, and most teams had already confirmed the majority of the travel plans and accommodations. Instead of having to adjust half the schedule to compensate, the Winnipeg franchise will just have to suck it up and play a wild schedule for a season. Think of it as rites of (re-)initiation.
The weirdest part of this season will be seeing the Jets listed in the Southeast Division, while they are among the league’s northernmost teams. They’ll certainly rack up the frequent flyer miles playing against the likes of the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. Maybe the NHL could have handled the timeline better and realigned the division sensibly in time for 2011-12, but the fact that they’ve committed to decide the matter this soon is definitely better than most thought they would.
The biggest rumor right now is that the Jets will move into the west and the Detroit Red Wings to the east, but that may not sit well among the rest of the league’s owners. The Western Conference teams like Detroit as they are a big draw on the road, while teams like the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets may prefer the easier competition on the right side of the league. There will be a lot of lobbying in the coming months, and Bettman will surely be up to task. After all, it is his NHL, and nobody else’s.
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