And Then A Step to the Right

With the impending move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg chatter has renewed as to what team will replace the Thrashers in the East.  There are two popular theories: the first is that one of the Detroit or Columbus would go East since those cities are in the eastern time zone, while the second is that Nashville will move to the East since it is in position to slip into the Southeast division.  The major conversation among my fellow Predators fans is whether the conference move would be a boon or a curse on the team.  My own viewpoint is that I would much rather the team remains in the Western Conference, and so I shall explain.

The first thing is time zones.  Nashville would be the first and only team in the EC that will be in the central time zone.  It is guaranteed that most of our road games will now have a 6:00cst start, rolling everything back an hour and making it variably difficult for people to get home and settle in before the game starts.  In some cases commuters will probably go from the door to couch without much choice if they want to catch the game.  I cannot help but wonder what sort of impact could this have on viewership and ratings?  An hour can make quite a difference.  Of course the advantage here is that fans will no longer have to contend with nearly as many 8 and 9 cst starts.

The other problem is the level of competition in the EC.  The widely held opinion is that even the weaker teams in the West would compete for playoff berths if they were located in the East.  Playing the Panthers and Senators and Hurricanes more times every year will certainly be far less exciting than playing the Sharks, Ducks, Stars, or even the Oilers.  That competition makes the Predators a better team and put a better entertainment product on the ice.  So, the team might not only lose viewers due to a time shift, but also due to a fewer number of engaging hockey games.

But someone has to move to the Eastern Conference: does the NHL send one of the two WC, but eastern time zone, teams of the Detroit Red Wings or the Columbus Blue Jackets?  Traditionalists would likely favor sending the Red Wings back into the East, but that doesn't make a lot of sense for the league.  Moving Detroit away leaves the West with a single Original 6 team in the Blackhawks and removes an iconic and constantly competitive team from the WC.  Further the Red Wings have maintained a number of rivalries in the West; it would be a minus to the league to strip away those rivalries.  Then there are the Blue Jackets.  Columbus is a team with some talent that has continued to struggle in the competitive WC and the ultra-competitive Central Division.  A move to the East would likely give the Jackets the ability to compete at a higher level and bring success to the struggling franchise.  It further helps the teams by easing their travel schedule and placing them back into their natural time zone.

If Gary Bettman and the league are interested in making money and making Sunbelt hockey success Nashville needs to remain locked in the Western Conference.

Also, don't forget to check out my continued parody of Stanley Cup Playoff predictions

1 comment:

sportsfan1981 said...

You bring up interesting points about how the divisions should be realigned now that the Atlanta Thrashers are relocating to Winnipeg, pending approval from the NHL's board of governors. The NHL won't be realigning its divisions for next season, so Winnipeg will be competing in the Southeast Division. I'd say it makes perfect geographic sense for the Predators and the new Winnipeg team to switch divisions, although it would be kind of strange to have one Eastern Conference team in the Central time zone. The debate on how, or if, the NHL's divisions should be realigned is an interesting one!