Holy cow what a storm Stephen Brunt whipped up during Game 3 of the East Final. First the ecstasy of the NHL returning to Winnipeg, then the frowny faces when Bob and Darren's sources on ATL --> WPG denied a done deal. Then the all out media/twitter war with people picking sides between TSN and Sportsnet/Globe and Mail. Then the partying got going on Portage and Main. Calm yourselves people!! We've all been pretty certain TNSE was going to get the Thrashers and move 'em to Winnipeg, so it's not really an if but when.
That said, it will be a fantastic moment in Canada when the impossible seventh franchise returns reversing about a decade of Sunbelt expansion dogma for the NHL. On that note, my heart goes out to the fans in Atlanta. I know there are some very loyal and avid fans in the city and they deserve a lot of sympathy as they watch another team leaving. They were let down by poor ownership and team management.
My thoughts on last night's (and today's I guess) gongshow? There is a verbal agreement in place creating the proverbial done deal, but nobody has signed on the dotted line, hence the ease of denial. So, in fact, every body is right. It's all in the semantics, gotta love those semantics. In my opinion, both outlets could have chosen their words more carefully as they seemed to do through the night and into today.
So, that opens up everybody's next two favourite items. The Winnipeg _______ name and conference realignment. As much as I would love to see the Jets back, it won't happen. The ownership wants to distance itself from mediocrity while the NHL is happy to keep making money off Jets jersey sales. Likely the team will become the Manitoba Moose. As my friend Alex pointed out last night, True North has put a lot into that Moose branding and would probably like to see it remain. As Kelly pointed out today in the newsroom, it's amazing what including the entire province/state in a name can do for marketing a la Saskatchewan Roughriders.
So with all of that taken care of, lets take a look at realignment. Fun pictures and colours included after the break.
This is how the divisions (Northwest, Pacific, Central and Southeast) look at the moment. I didn't tackle the jumble in the Northeast because that won't change. No matter how much Detroit wants to move into the East, sorry guys, it's not happening. So you have the gigantic area covered by the Northwest, the very small Central, the Pacific (or what they should call it, Southwest) and the elongated Southeast (I took the liberty of removing Atlanta, sort of).
So what's the first variation? This is the one I like the most, mainly because it keeps my teams in the same division and gets rid of the always boring Calgary Minnesota match-up.
So as expected, Winnipeg joins the Northwest. Nashville moves into the Southeast. The other team that could theoretically move to the east is Columbus. The Blue Jackets are actually the most easterly team, but their proximity to the Blues, Hawks and Red Wings make the move illogical. Nashville on the other hand is relatively central to the Southeast.
The team joining the Central Division is the Minnesota Wild. They're even further East than Winnipeg and are closer to most of the Central teams than they are any of the Northwest teams. There are some old-time Norris division rivalries that get renewed as well, so I think this plan is the best fit. It also keeps my Avalanche and Flames in the same division so I get to watch the Avs more on t.v. through the season. Bonus.
Here's the other variation. It's pretty similar in that Nashville still moves East.
This plan kind of mucks with the Central division travel wise. The reason the Stars have made noise in the past about getting into that division is time zone. Dallas sits in the Central Time Zone, two hours ahead of the California teams. That wreaks havoc with t.v. and radio schedules. A move to the Central would be much more media friendly. Their travel wouldn't really be much easier as they're kind of in no man's land any ways, kind of like Colorado. The Avalanche by virtue of joining the Pacific have their travel lessened a great deal from other plans so they may be open to the move, despite my fervent objections.
There are a bunch of other ways it could go down. Columbus could pull the switch instead of Nashville, which would surprise me a whole lot. The league could cave and move Detroit. Don't even get me started on the calamity that would ensue as they try to sort out the jumble in the East. Again, I like the first variation with Nashville to the Southeast and Minnesota to the Central. Nashville adds a little bit of travel while Minnesota cuts down on a lot. Other teams don't really feel much of a change. Simple. However, as the NHL shows us on a regular basis, nothing is ever easy.
In the end, this discussion is a moot point until next season apparently. Numerous reports say the NHL will not look at realignment for the upcoming season, which clearly means I don't understand scheduling because I wouldn't have thought it that big of a deal. So I guess I'll repost this in a year and you can all see how forward thinking I am.
Now we wait for the NHL to officially announce the return to Winnipeg and the serious party that city throws.
Post Script: A note about the maps. I didn't create the backdrop. I just handled the easy part with the dots and lines. The map was pulled from this forum, but I have no clue where they got it from.
(June 28th, 2011) Since writing this, several reports have surfaced that I'm going to be very wrong about the realignment, as many others are as well.
It looks as though the NHL is going to take the time to do a major realignment of the teams and conferences.
Here's a link to a Globe and Mail story on the subject.