COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s official: the Blue Jackets are moving to the Eastern Conference.
While rumors and speculation were abound over the past few weeks, the final rubber-stamp of approval was applied today as the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors voted to implement a new realignment plan for the league. The plan, consented to last week by the Players’ Association, goes into effect beginning with the 2013-14 regular season.
Several factors went into the league’s decision to proceed with realignment, including (but not limited to) the Winnipeg Jets competing in the Southeast Division the past two seasons and a need to balance travel schedules for clubs like Columbus and Detroit competing in the Western Conference. The Blue Jackets have long desired to move east, and now, it’s going to happen.
John Davidson quote here
For the Blue Jackets, the first thing that appeals with a move to the East is more favorable travel. Regular trips out west to California and western Canada will be replaced by swings through Florida and New York and Ontario, much easier for Blue Jackets fans to access for traveling purposes and also for television broadcasts.
In this 48-game shortened NHL season, Columbus’ first seven road games were played outside of the Eastern time zone and they make four road trips (including 12 games) beyond the Central time zone, which accounts for 25 percent of their schedule. The numbers aren’t too dissimilar for a standard 82-game schedule, where the Blue Jackets make two trips to California, two to Colorado/Phoenix and two to western Canada each season.
In their 12-year history, the Blue Jackets’ only divisional opponent in the Eastern time zone has been the Detroit Red Wings, who are also headed East as part of the new realignment plan.
As part of the plan, the league will divide into two conferences comprised of two divisions each; the Eastern Conference will hold 16 teams while the West holds 14, and a wild card playoff system will determine the fourth and final playoff spots in each of the four divisions.
- Schedule matrix here -
John Davidson quote here
There’s another added allure to this Eastern Conference move for the Blue Jackets and their fans, and that’s the opportunity to see some of the top players in the NHL on a regular basis. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals (among others, which are detailed below) will be making a handful of stops at Nationwide Arena each season, bringing names like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Alex Ovechkin and others through Columbus.
On top of that, other East opponents like Buffalo, Boston, Toronto and Montreal will also visit the Blue Jackets annually.
Here are the new divisional breakdowns:
1) Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington
2) Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
1) Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
2) Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
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