December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
NEW YORK -- The answer is yes. Whatever ideas the NHL tosses around when it comes to divisional realignment, the Winnipeg Jets are in -- just as long as it gets them out of the Southeast Division.
Yes, those January-February treks to Sunrise and Tampa, Fla., are soul lifters when slogging through a Winnipeg winter. But the travel -- being the only team in the Eastern Conference that doesn't play a single road game in its time zone -- is an absolute nightmare.
So when word spread over the weekend of a new four-division alignment -- the last proposal saw the 30 teams divided into six divisions -- it didn't take long for the Jets to collectively raise their hands in approval.
"We saw it," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd.
"Obviously, it would have a big effect on us. It's something that we're going to welcome. Anything that's different than what's going on right now is probably a lot better for us. We'll be happy with pretty much anything."
The latest alignment look -- first revealed by Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada and, according to ESPN.com detailed in a memo to all 30 clubs on Tuesday -- would see the Jets relocate to the Western Conference and be part of a Midwest Division consisting of the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.
The other Western Conference division would be the Pacific and feature Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
The Eastern Conference would be comprised of the Atlantic and Central Divisions. Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto would make up the Central with Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh representing the Atlantic.
There would also be a change to the playoff format under this system. The top three teams from each division would automatically qualify with the top two remaining teams in each conference -- four in total -- earning wild-card spots. The top-seeded divisional winner would play the lowest-seeded wild-card team in the first round, with the other top division winner playing the other wild-card team.
The proposal, of course, would need approval from the NHL's governors -- who already gave the thumbs up to a new proposal over a year ago -- and the NHL Players' Association, which voted down the last look. It would go into effect for next season if approved.
In any case, the Jets would be ecstatic to have their travel and the amount of time zones they have to cross to play on the road cut substantially.
"Our road travel is what it is," said Jets coach Claude Noel when asked for the umpteenth time this season. "It's OK. We're always a long way to get anywhere from Winnipeg to the east or southeast and next week we go again (to Florida and other stops). We don't deal too much or talk too much about our travel. It's just the way it is."
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Proposed Midwest Division
St. Louis Blues
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2013 D3