Since the recent move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg there have been many news stories and blog posts about the NHL realigning its divisions and even switching teams from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference and vice versa. The newest report that came out Monday and that CSNchicago.com reported on Tuesday morning has the Central Division consisting of the Minnesota, Winnipeg, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas, and possibly Columbus.
Read over the teams again. See anything missing?
There’s no Detroit in that list.
The man who might have “let the cat out of the bag” is Minnesota’s owner Craig Leopold, who, on Minneapolis’s KFAN radio, told the interviewer about the NHL’s supposed realignment that could take affect at the start of the 2012-13 season.
“Our division would include the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets… maybe not depending on if they go east or west. I am all in favor of that. I think that is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team.
We’re all Central Division now. All of our teams, except for Columbus, all of our teams will be Central Division. We’ll play less teams in Canada. We will play every team home and away at least one time.”
It has also been widely reported that Detroit would be leaving the Western Conference and joining the Eastern Conference, leaving the ‘Hawks the only Original Six team in the Western Conference.
Of course none of this is actually set in stone, but the tone in which Leopold spoke, and the fact that Detroit management has its “fingers and toes crossed” for a switch to happen because it would cut travel time and allow them to play more Original Six teams, gives this scenario some credibility.
So, if this does happen, will this be a good or bad thing for the Blackhawks?
My answer would be both yes and no.
First off, the importance of the Detroit/Chicago rivalry would be severely hindered. Logically, it’s a good thing since the ‘Hawks have a career 270-354-84-7 record against the Red Wings, but it would end a tradition that started all the way back to the 1926-27 season. The rivalry is one of, if not the most entertaining and intense rivalry in the NHL, and ending such tradition (at least in the division) doesn’t sit well with a lot of fans.
But, on the other side, it could be a very positive change for the Blackhawks in terms of less competition within their division. There has only been one time in the past 12 years that the Red Wings didn’t find themselves on top of the Central Division, losing the title to the Blackhawks in the 2009-10 season.
If the standings for last season were based on what Leopold said the divisions could be moving forward, then the Central Division standings would have looked like this: Nashville (99 points), Chicago (97 points), Dallas (95 points), St. Louis (87 points), Columbus (81 points), and Winnipeg (80 points).
The ‘Hawks wouldn’t be division leaders, but it’s hard to not suggest that the ‘Hawks would have a better chance to be more successful in the Central Division with these changes. They would have an easier schedule with such a division setup.
Like I said before, nothing is set in stone because the NHL hasn’t officially announced anything yet, but if such a deal like this should be done I think it would benefit the Blackhawks despite losing a much-loved and respected rivalry.