The transition of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise to the True North ownership group to become the Winnipeg Jets may have finally been the cog that Red Wings fans have been waiting for. With Facebook groups and blogs dedicated to the Red Wings making the move to the Eastern Conference, it looks like a move of a team from the West to the East is inevitable. Now the only question is whether the Red Wings are the leading candidate?
The debate over the best way to accomplish realignment will be a hot topic throughout the upcoming season. As the new Jets franchise has to travel over 1,000 miles just to play games on the road within their division, the Red Wings will likely have competition within their division from both Columbus and Nashville for front runner on making the move. Both the Blue Jackets and Predators have nothing to gain with the Wings jumping out of the division, and they could potentially make up some of those season ticket sales losses by scheduling more games against high profile teams like Pittsburgh or Washington.
The top reason/excuse the NHL will use for the Red Wings to stay home in the Western Conference will be based on their rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks. While the two Original Six teams are linked by both history and location, this rivalry has been extremely one-sided over the past two decades to the Wings. One could argue that the Wings are as much of a rival of the Blackhawks as they are with the Maple Leafs.
The NHL understands that the Wings joining the East would create a considerable cosmic shift among the teams, as they seem to have soured on the idea of a Western Conference void of the Red Wings. The result would be a Western Conference essentially split between Western Canada, California and the Upper Midwest, with very few nationally marketable teams. This situation should continue to be a hot topic throughout the season, as the NHL continues to have other relocation situations hanging over its head.