DETROIT – It looks like the Detroit Red Wings will indeed get their way when realignment comes around as early as next season, with a move to the Eastern Conference.
That’s if the plan a plan is approved by the Board of Governors and the Players’ Association.
“We have been in discussions with the Players’ Association for the past several weeks on the issue of realignment and we are trying to get to a solution that everybody can live with,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com. “There are no perfect answers here, so we have to do the best we can in trying to adequately address a number of competing concerns. Once we get to a point where we have the Union’s go-ahead, we will present it to our Board of Governors for its consideration. We certainly hope to be in a position to announce something in the relatively near term.”
The proposed move would take Detroit and Columbus out of the Western Conference and move them to the East.
“I think it looks awesome,” Daniel Cleary said.
“Us going to the East, that would be a no-brainer,” Niklas Kronwall said.
If the proposal passes, the Wings would move into Central Division with three Original Six teams – Boston, Montreal and Toronto – along with Buffalo, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Florida.
“If that’s how it looks, that would be great for us,” Cleary said. “It’s huge. Anybody that’s played in Detroit understands the rigors of going out west, and the hard part is coming home, when you lose that much time. We have one team in our conference in our time zone. It’s taxing but we’ve been doing it for a lot of years. It would be great to move over.”
In the proposed schedule matrix teams would play the other conference both home and away.
“Home-and-home with each team, if that’s the case, would be great for the game,” Kronwall said. “That way all the fans get to see the Crosbys, the Datsyuks and the Zetterbergs.”
Last year, the Board of Governors approved a switch to four seven- or eight-team conferences, but the PA refused to agree to the change.
That proposal so the Wings in an eight-team conference, along with current Central Division foes Chicago, Columbus, Nashville and St. Louis, while adding Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg to the mix.
“It would be outstanding, it would be great, unbelievable,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said last week when the rumors started of the move to the East. “Travel’s huge, there’s no question about it. It wears you right out. It would be a good thing for us. I’d have to learn a whole new league but that’s all right, too.”
Due to an unbalance of teams – 16 in the East and 14 in the West – an adjustment needs to be made to the playoffs.
According to a report by ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun the league would introduce a wild-card element to the postseason.
The top three teams in each of the four divisions would qualify with the final four spots going to the two teams in each conference with the next best records.
“I think it would be great for us from the travel standpoint, even though we’re all used to it now,” Jimmy Howard said. “We know how to deal with it. We’ve traveled back and forth, across the United States quite a bit. To move to the East I think that would be a lot of fun to play a lot of games in the Eastern Time Zone. It would be great for our fans too, not having to stay up until all hours of the night to watch us.
“I think the travel sometimes takes years off of all of our lives,” Howard continued. “It’s one of those things that you have to deal with.”
The other divisions would look this this: Pacific Division (Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver); Midwest Division (Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg); Atlantic Division (Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington).
“I’m just excited that they’re talking about it again,” Kronwall said. “I definitely think where we’re at, with the new CBA finalized, we can get back to the table and get a completely different dialogue (with realignment).”