With the near-imminent-no-really-it-hasn't-happened-yet-but-totally-will-soon news that the Atlanta Thrashers will move to Winnipeg, talk of realignment has begun to pick up. After all, we can't rightly have Winnipeg (location: not eastern Canada) in the Eastern Conference, right?
Supposedly, for some unknown and probably stupid reason, realignment doesn't appear imminent for 2011-12, however, the conferences will look different for the 2012-13 season. So let's take a look at some of the likely candidates to move East.
Pros: For the most part, the pros of moving East will be the same for any team. The biggest and most obvious is the travel ramifications. No more multiple trips to Vancouver, Phoenix, or southern California. More trips to Buffalo, Carolina and New York. Detroit is one of the few teams in the West who actually plays in the Eastern time zone. (I believe Columbus is the only other one?) That will save money on travel costs and also energy for an increasingly-aging team.
Detroit's large fan base will be able to see more of the Red Wings' road games. (Though if they're that die-hard, they'll watch them no matter where they play. But I digress.)
More intense rivalries could be created with teams like Washington and Philadelphia. It would result in most of the Original Six teams being in the East. It would be NBC's dream come true, because they'd have even less reason to show teams in the Western Conference.
Cons: Never mind that Chicago-Detroit rivalry. Who needs tradition? It would also hurt the other 14 teams in the West, as they would lose a major, major draw. None of the teams in the East would be happy either, as they would have to deal with a major, major opponent in earning division titles/playoff spots. It would create illogical divisions. It's bad enough Washington is in the Southeast Division; who north of the Mason-Dixon line will join them?
Diagnosis: As a member of the East, I don't want Detroit in the conference at all. Word is though they'll be the favorite, because they were such a "good soldier" in the last realignment that saw Toronto move East. Ken Holland is buddy-buddy with a lot of NHL higher-ups, so they'll probably whine their way into a move because they can't cut it in the West any more.
Pros: Again, the travel and money costs. But also, the Blue Jackets need help. Moving them East will, I believe, help them competitively because they won't have to deal with the crazy traveling. The East seems a little more wide-open at the bottom of the playoff picture, which could keep the Blue Jackets alive in the playoff race for longer. And if that's one more fan base who actually has reason to be excited as the year winds down, that's a major plus. Whereas Detroit will always be in the chase.
An instant rivalry with Pittsburgh will result. Penguins fans basically make Nationwide Arena their home away from home as it is. Columbus is the closest NHL town to Pittsburgh, and the Penguins need a rival they can actually beat. (They can't beat Philadelphia or Washington any more.) And since Pittsburgh is always on national TV, sometimes Columbus could be as well, which - gasp - would create more exposure for another team that isn't Pittsburgh, Washington, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, the Rangers or Chicago (or as my friend calls them, the NBC 7.)
Cons: They're not Detroit.
Diagnosis: They're not Detroit, so they're not an actual candidate.
Pros: In addition to what was said in the first paragraph on Columbus, there is one other major pro for Nashville to move. The Predators are one of the few NHL teams who could be considered in the southeastern part of the United States, so moving them to that division makes all the sense in the world.
Cons: The NHL does not do things that make sense. Nashville would be the only team who plays in the East that isn't in the Eastern time zone. Also, Nashville isn't Detroit.
Diagnosis: Nashville isn't Detroit, so the Preds aren't an actual candidate.
Pros: Screw it, why the hell not?
Cons: They're not Detroit.