It’s official, the Detroit Red Wings are heading the Eastern Conference.
“That’s great news,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “Everyone should be happy, especially in Detroit.”
The NHL’s board of governors approved the new four-division realignment plan, which will take effect next season, that will have the Wings playing in a Division with three Original Six teams, Boston, Montreal and Toronto, along with Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.
“I like the travel,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Some of my favorite cities in the world are Toronto, Boston and Montreal.”
Columbus will also move from the West to the East, which will house of 16 of the league’s 30 teams.
“That’s going to be pretty cool,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “The travel schedule is always tough on us because we’re having to travel so far a lot of times. It seems like we should be in the East.
“For me, to get to play Toronto more because it’s back home that’s pretty cool,” Smith continued. “I think some people think after you watch the game and turn off the TV you’re done. We maybe have an eight hour trip home. There is a lot of wear and tear on the body.”
The other divisions would look this this: Division A (Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver); Division B (Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg); Division D (Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington).
“We’ve traveled back and forth, across the United States quite a bit,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “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. It’s one of those things that you have to deal with.”
The Wings will be in Division C. Permanent names for the divisions will be given at a later date.
“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,” Cleary said. “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.”
The playoffs will consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference. It will be division based and a wild card system will be added.
Also, there will be home and away games against each team in the other conference.
“That way all the fans get to see the Crosbys, the Datsyuks and the Zetterbergs,” Kronwall said.
Currently, the style of hockey in the East seems more wide open whereas in the West it’s more a grind-out kind of game.
“It won’t be hard to adjust to it at all,” Cleary said. “It’s not like we’re going to a harder conference, no offense. It’s different conferences. I don’t want to say one is easier than the other all I know is the West is a tough Conference. I’ve never played in the East so take that for what it’s worth.”
A Western Conference team has won the Cup in four out of the past six seasons.
“You see in the East there are a lot of high scoring games,” Smith said. “In the West it’s all low scoring and close one- or two-goal games. The styles are different. It won’t be hard to adjust. We just have to play our style and our team likes to dictate the game anyway.”
The plan will be re-evaluated after the 2015-16 season.
Last year, the Board of Governors approved a switch to four seven- or eight-team conferences, but the players’ association 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.