If you take a close look at the Devils’ 2011-2012 regular season game schedule, you will notice that the Devils face the Winnipeg Jets four times, the same number of times they face Southeast Division teams. (You can check out the Devils' schedule here). That’s because, with the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg (read Darren's post regarding the sale here), the Winnipeg Jets have taken over the Thrashers’ spot in the Eastern Conference – this, despite the fact that Winnipeg is located in Western Canada and 1229 miles from Newark. Obviously, this will not only increase total travel time for all Eastern Conference teams, but it will mean crazy amounts of travel for the Jets, as well. While it’s too late to correct this for the upcoming season, the NHL’s Board of Governors has already discussed the situation and is, reportedly, close to agreeing on a solution.
The solution will probably come in the form of a realignment of the entire league. This will most likely happen by moving either Nashville, Columbus or Detroit to the Eastern Conference and then dividing each conference into two divisions – one consisting of eight teams and one consisting of seven. According to Rich Chere on NJ.com, the divisions could look like this:
I have to say that, at first glance, I’m not loving the new configuration that much. If the above-mentioned divisions become reality, this would obviously mean that the number of games between the Devils and both the Flyers and the Penguins would decrease since those two teams would be in a different division than the Devils. This could seriously put a damper on the current rivalries that exist between the Devils and these teams. I also think it would provide the Flyers and the Penguins with a somewhat easier schedule than what they’ve been accustomed to playing. I’m not trying to insult any teams here because you never know how any team is going to play in any given year (this past Devils’ season has certainly taught us that), but, historically speaking, Southeast Division teams as a group don’t exactly rack up the points in comparison to Atlantic and Northeast Division teams. Other than Washington, maybe Tampa Bay and hit or miss with Carolina, there really aren’t any other teams in that division that could pose real competition for the Flyers and Penguins - except each other and especially if Columbus is moved into the Eastern Conference.
I’m just not sure what the problem would be with moving one of those three Western Conference teams (Columbus, Detroit or Nashville) into the Eastern Conference and leaving it at that. Isn’t Nashville actually located in the South? In my opinion, the Predators could slide seamlessly over into Atlanta’s vacated place and everything else could remain pleasantly “status quo”. If anyone else has any insights or other ideas, please enlighten me in the comments below.
The Devils play the Jets in Winnipeg on December 3rd and January 14th. Travis Zajac is a Winnipeg native, and the game on December 3rd will be the first time he will play an NHL game in his hometown.