First, why would the CBJ want to move East? Well, the Eastern Conference has not been the gauntlet the NHL’s Central Division has proven to be. (Every Central Division team won at least 9 of their 18 matchups with the East this past season. In fact, four of the five Central Division teams posted a winning record against the Eastern Conference.) That could change over time, of course.
That would mean a much more important consideration would be the elimination of west coast games that start at 10pm, which would help the club’s flagging television ratings. And still more importantly, it would reduce the organization’s travel time and costs. (Reduced travel time would also allow the Jackets to practice more, which is something coach Scott Arniel repeatedly said the club needed during the end of the season interviews.)
Would the Jackets be the team to move? There’s reason to think so. The Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline joined WBNS 10TV’s Wall to Wall Sports and said it was, “more possible than ever.” He said the Dispatch would cover the subject in-depth Sunday. (UPDATE: Here’s a link to that: story. It includes many of the arguments I make here.)
The Dispatch isn’t the only paper talking about the chance of this happening. In fact, the Toronto Globe and Mail mentioned this as a possibility about a month ago…even before discussion of the Thrashers moving stared to gain traction. The Globe and Mail also mentioned Nashville as a team that could join the East, but the Predators already play in the Central Time Zone, thus they wouldn’t benefit quite as much from a move.
Red Wings fans would protest that they’ve paid their dues and deserve first consideration, but their longevity is actually an argument against them switching conferences. They along with the Blackhawks, are the only Original Six teams in the West. The Red Wings have established rivalries with some of their Western Conference opponents, such as the Avalanche. Plus, playing in the West has obviously not hindered Detroit competitively.
One last Blue Jackets related note: Fox Sports Ohio has signed up to be a corporate partner of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, whose mission it is to attract, “regional, national and international sporting events to bolster Greater Columbus economically and socially.”
Could this add any juice to the city’s efforts to attract the NHL All-Star game or the Winter Classic? Obviously, those events would be nationally broadcast, not carried on FSO. However, it could make an impact in what Fox Sports is able to carry in terms of ancillary programming.