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What A Team in Winnipeg Could Mean for the Wings

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Unless you have been living under a rock, you should have heard by now that the Wings did not kill the Jet/Coyote franchise yet again.  The city of Glendale approved a $25 million payout to the NHL to keep the team in Arizona for next season, and possibly beyond if they can find a Phoenix-friendly buyer.

Winipeg fans had lost their team, yet again, and cried for all of 4 hours before reports started rolling in that Atlanta would be moving to Canada instead.  While all the reports are being denied by the NHL, it seems like only a matter of weeks before the announcement rolls out that the Jets will be resurrected from the ashes of Atlanta.  It is doubtful the NHL will announce anything until the end of the Stanley Cup parade next month, though, so we get another 5-6 weeks of Puck Daddy reporting irrelevancies from either camp.

After the jump, what this move means for the Wings is discussed.

Now, assuming this happens, it could have great implications for our beloved Red Wings.  The Thrashers are currently situated in the center of the Southeast Division, right where they should be.  A move to Winnipeg, in central Canada, would mean they would no longer be able to be in the Southeast, unless the NHL wanted them to be traveling far more often than any other NHL team.

As published before, I do not believe the regional divisions should be preserved.  However, I know it to be unlikely that the NHL would abandon this method and so the following options will operate under the assumption that divisions and conferences will stay regionally based.

So here are the NHL's options.  The Thrashers/Jets will likely be moved into the Northwest Division, but could be moved into the Central to simplify things.  If they are moved into the Northwest, the Minnesota Wild will move into the Central which is probably best for everyone anyway.

  • Option 1 - The Nashville Predators are moved to the Southeast

    This seems to be the most logical solution.  The Predators are currently the most southern team not in the division already and both the Preds and the division itself would benefit from having them there, where the Predators would be the de facto #2 team, vying for the #1 spot with the Lightning.

    Problems with this are varied.  The Predators have a strong rivalry with the Wings and, to an extent, the Blues.  Moving them away could lead to less interest from their fanbase, something that should be approached cautiously.  For the Wings, this would mean a big step down in talent for the the next best team in the division (whether it be Winnipeg or Minnesota, they aren't as good as any team coached by Barry Trotz)
  • Option 2 - The Columbus Blue Jackets move to the Southeast

    This one seems unlikely given how far north the Blue Jackets are, but for some reason people from Ohio think they are from the South anyway, so it works out (I can say this, I have a bunch of a hillbilly family members from Ohio).  Additionally, the Blue Jackets would benefit from moving to a less talented division and could possibly scrape themselves into the playoffs next season (playing against the Panthers so often does have its benefits).  Further, the Jackets have zero divisional rivalries so it could happen on that basis alone.  In this case, the Central division would actually improve.
  • Option 3 - The Jackets move to the Atlantic and the Devils or Capitals move to the Southeast

    This one will not happen.  Period.  It is an option, but there is no way the NHL moves the Capitals away from the Pens and Flyers if they are going to be replaced with the Blue Jackets of all teams. (UPDATE: As commenters pointed out, the Capitals actually are in the Southeast.  I apologize for my mistake)

    The New Jersey Devils could be moved to the Southeast.  They are a weaker team with no real rivals at the moment and given how weak their fanbase is at the moment (they rank 26th in league attendance and their average attendance has dropped 3,500 tickets in 2 seasons), it would not be horrible for them to have a change in scenery.  The issue is, like the Jackets, they are too far north.
  • Option 4 - The Wings move to the Atlantic and the Capitals or Devils move to the Southeast

    This one would obviously affect us the most.  We would no longer be in the West and would have a completely new set of teams to play against each night.  Our rivalry with Crosby's Penguins could blossom into something like we had with the Avs a decade ago and we would get to face Chris Pronger much more often.

    According to various reports over the last few years, the NHL has a gentleman's agreement with Ilitch that if a team is ever needed to be moved to the East, the Wings have first choice.  So that could very well mean that this will come down to whether or not Mike Ilitch sees benefit in swapping the Blackhawks and Predators for the Penguins and Flyers.  In terms of money, there is no reason he would say no to having Crosby and Ovechkin at the Joe more often.  He is big on tradition, though, so we may stay just for that reason.

    This makes sense in terms of balancing the conferences for the NHL and Bettman would surely love having 6+ games between the Pens and Wings every year, but we run into the same issue of the Devils moving into a division so far from where they are located.  I don't think it would be too big an issue for the league, though.

So those are the 4 options.  Most likely, the Predators would be moved into the Southeast and the Wings would play the Wild or Winnipeg a few more times a year than they would normally.  If the Wings do get moved, though, we get the benefit of the time zone (we would play exclusively in the eastern time zone during the playoffs and much of the regular season, yay for less 10:30 starts) and the bonus of having the Penguins in our house much more often.  However, we could lose our rivalry with Chicago over it as well as our developing rivalries with San Jose, Nashville, and even Phoenix.

Assuming the Thrashers become the Jets sometime next month, what would you like to see happen with the divisions?  What do you think is most likely to happen?