Tag:Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: October 17, 2011 11:38 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 12:19 pm

Jets' home-crowd advantage on display vs. Pens

By Brian Stubits

Is there any doubt what kind of home-ice advantage the Jets will have in Winnipeg? There shouldn't be.

The only thing left for the Jets 2.0 to accomplish was a win, and they got it in Game No. 4 on Monday night back in the 'Peg. Before some fans were even in their seats, Kyle Wellwood tied a franchise record by scoring eight seconds into the game. The Hangar went nuts.

You'd think it was the Stanley Cup Finals with that kind of reaction.

But the sight of the night across the NHL on Monday will be the final minute in Winnipeg. It looked like every fan in the arena stuck around until the final seconds ticked off, and the place went nuts.

Watching on television, it looked awfully similar to the final few seconds of the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid. Fans all standing, cheering their lungs out.

Former NHLer Bob Errey, doing color commentary for the Penguins' telecast, remarked in amazement that the MTS Centre was "as loud an arena as I've ever heard in the NHL. Unbelievable."

That's quite a difference from the last time the Penguins saw this team, the final NHL game played in Atlanta last spring. That's not meant to shovel any more dirt on the Atlanta hockey grave, right now the atmosphere in Winnipeg is putting every other city to shame.

Just wait until the Jets get good.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am

Saturday Story: Tavares, the Nuge are pretty good

By Brian Stubits

I wonder how Taylor Hall feels this morning? Saturday was a banner night for two of the past three No. 1 overall draft picks. But at least Hall had a good view for half of it.

First, it was John Tavares. the No. 1 selection in the 2009 draft is scorching hot at the moment for the Islanders. Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles took down the Rangers in a New York showdown. For J.T., it marked his second consecutive four-point game that included five goals.

At this rate, maybe Tavares should do the negotiating for a new arena on Long Island. Right now, he can't miss.

Now step over here for the latest showing in Premature Theater: are the Islanders the best of the New York-area teams? Since losing on opening night to the Florida Panthers 2-0 with some boo birds in attendance, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the young bunch.

They have won three in a row, beating the Wild, Lightning and Rangers. They're goaltending has been surprisingly solid with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. We saw surprising simply because this team was carrying three goalies on the active roster as of a few days ago and not many foresaw Montoya being the No. 1. The offense is showing the promise many people see; largely Tavares can be a superstar and he has some good players around him.

This is the point where we remind ourselves it's only the second weekend of the year. Of course Tavares won't score four points every night. But the Islanders have been taking steps the last two seasons and the signs were there for a breakout, just nobody could see how it happened in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils. So far so good.

Not to be outdone

On to the other star of the night. That would be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. I'm starting to think maybe the scouting reports had him all wrong. I'm not talking about the knocks on his size, either, but the fact that he is a play-maker. I'd say he's making plays right now, goal-scoring plays.

The Nuge as some have already come to call him, netted his first hat trick of his career in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Canucks. So yea, in only his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins wrangled up a hat trick against Roberto Luongo and the defending Western Conference champions. This comes after his game-tying goal in the final minutes against the Penguins in his NHL debut helped Edmonton to a season-opening two points.

But Hall isn't feeling too bad. After all, he had a solid rookie campaign himself last season and he's enjoying the spoils of Nugent-Hopkins' great start by playing on the same line. He has assisted on three of Nugent-Hopkins' four goals this season.

That giddy giggling you hear is coming out of Edmonton, where visions of sugarplums dance in their heads at the idea of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the same line for years to come. Throw in a healthy Ales Hemsky and you have as exciting and talented a young line as you'll find in hockey.

It's still going to take some time, but this might be the season where the Oilers begin to show that improvement. Of course if they don't, I can't imagine Edmonton would feel too bad with a shot at top draft prospect Nail Yakupov.

Phillin' it

Oh, and this Phil Kessel fella is pretty good too. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record (the Capitals and Red Wings the others) and Phil Kessel has been a monster in that start.

Kessel is tied with Tavares and Pittsburgh's James Neal for the league lead in goals (five) and tied with Tavares and David Legwand in points (eight) despite playing in only three games.

Maybe that trade isn't looking that awful anymore.

What's that feeling in Toronto? Optimism? Nice to meet you again.

If a tree falls in the woods ...

The Dallas Stars are 4-1, but not many people in the Metroplex have been around to see it. In their home win on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the announced attendance was 8,305. That followed up attendance numbers of 6,306 vs. the Coyotes and 7,949 against the Blues.

Now I understand full well that there is a certain other team that is stealing the spotlight in Dallas right now in the Texas Rangers. A World Series run is not easy to compete against. But those numbers are still awfully low, especially this early in the season with a team playing so well.

I'll give Dallas a pass for another week or so until the Rangers' run is done, but with young stars like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, I have no doubt the Stars can surprise a lot of people this year and keep that up.

Jetting back

It was like an awkward family reunion when the Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. And it was only fitting that Shane Doan did damage against his "old team" with two assists on the night.

But the intriguing part was the dynamic in the stands. Among the crowd were plenty of Jets fans to see the long-lost brothers battle on the ice. However, Phoenix did a pretty darn good job of keeping them quiet.

"Everybody always talks about we have games when there's a lot of visiting fans in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "But what it does is really feed on the emotion of the building because you get some visiting fans in there cheering that really puts a burr in your fans' butt. I thought our fans did a great job tonight. Believe me, I had visions of hearing 'Let's go Jets' a lot more than we heard tonight."

As for Winnipeg, you start to wonder what it will take to win a game. Maybe it's adjusting to life in Winnipeg now, a sense of entitlement as coach Claude Noel hinted at ("It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail."), or none of the above. Either way, there is lots of work to be done.

Hangover Part II

The last two Stanley Cup champions danced in Chicago on Saturday night, and it was the defending champs getting the best of the battle.

The Bruins needed a shootout to get by the Blackhawks in the the preseason Finals pick of your's truly. It was a goal from Nathan Horton that got them there.

Maybe this can be the smelling salts that wakes Horton and the Bruins from their slow start to the season.

Dirty or not?

We could make this a daily feature with the microscope that is being put on his in the NHL these days.

Here's a clip of a hit from the Capitals' Matt Hendricks on the Senators' Colin Greening. This one drew a good amount of attention on Saturday as people were wondering if this would lead to Brendan Shanahan's first in-season suspesion for a hit to the heads that didn't include a stick.

To me it seems Hendricks comes at the hit high, but doesn't specifically target the head. However the high follow through with the elbow going sky high doesn't help make the hit look good. In the end, I would think this doesn't get any more attention and is instead categorized a good hit.

Have a look for yourself (from Washington Times, Japer's Rink)

Photos: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 10:58 pm

Weekend Preview: Mike Richards returns to Philly

By Brian Stubits

Mike Richards the hockey player basically grew up in Philadelphia. He was the centerpiece around which the Flyers were built, their captain by the time he was 23 years old. The next Bobby Clarke, they dubbed him.

Then came last summer, when he was unceremoniously shipped out of town like a package at FedEx. The Flyers had seen the light, and that was the importance of goaltending and defense.

As a result, Richards and his $69 million contract that took effect in 2008-09 were sent to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and cap flexibility. On Saturday night, he'll return to Philly a King. Funny enough, he's back in Philadelphia for a game before even playing in his new home in L.A.

Inquiring minds want to know; what will it be like returning to an arena he once called home, just now as a visitor?

"I try not to think about it as much as possible," Richards said after Thursday's morning skate before the Kings' 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils. "It will be an exciting night once I get there.

"I expect to be nervous. I think that being on the opposite side playing against a lot of great friends ... I spent a lot of time there, a lot of great friends. It was an organization that game me an opportunity to come in the league. I think it's going to be nice to get it over with and turn the page."

Not to mention it's a pretty darn good game, too. Richards just adds some extra theater to it. But when we are looking at the matchup at hand, we have two genuine Stanley Cup contenders here. Los Angeles received one vote to represent the West from the CBSSports.com preseason picks. With Richards' addition, they have two All-Star worthy centers to go with a good young defense.

Philadelphia didn't have as many believers beore the season began, but that was just because nobody truly knew what to expect. If early returns are any indication, however, shipping Richards and fellow young star Jeff Carter (to Columbus) seems to have put in motion a great base behind goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers are 3-0-0 and have only surrendered five goals.

So yes, from a hockey standpoint, it's a marquee matchup. There's plenty of intrigue from that standpoint alone. But the homecoming King who scored 133 goals and 350 points in a Flyers sweater is the focal point.

"When you think of Mike Richards you think of Philadelphia, so this is certainly a big event for him and for the fans," Kings assistant coach John Stevens said.

You never can be sure with the notorious Philadelphia fans, but I'd expect to see a king's welcome (seriously, that pun wasn't intended) for Richards, at least at first. Once he scores or assists on any L.A. goal, they will treat him the same as any other opponent.

"I enjoyed playing in front of them every night and was excited to play in front of them," he said. "And I will be excited to play in front of them on Saturday."

Homeward bound

There are still seven teams that have yet to play their home-openers, but a few will finally take to the home ice this weekend. The Sabres will return to Buffalo to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night after a very successful trip to Europe. The city is so jacked up for Sabres hockey right now, that place (who knows what name the arena is going by now?) will be rocking.

Anaheim is also back Stateside after exploring Europe. The Ducks host the Sharks, who have somehow only played one game up to this point.

The Florida Panthers will debut their new all-red arena (and their red jerseys) against the instrastate rival Lightning on Saturday night. The two will play a home-and-home that concludes on Monday with the Bolts showing off their revamped arena for the first time.

The New York Rangers and Kings will remain as road warriors for a bit longer. L.A. doesn't return home until the 18th while New York is traveling all the way until October. 27 when it hosts Toronto at a slightly renovated Madison Square Garden.

Jets past and present

The one other team that has yet to play a game in front of the home crowd, Phoenix, will do so on Saturday. It should be interesting, too.

The Coyotes will host the Jets in what is instantly an awkward rivalry. It sort of feels like domestic abuse. The former Jets who are now the Coyotes meet the current Jets who were once the Thrashers. There is no real animosity to speak of between the two teams, but a lot of folks in the 'Peg still hold a grudge against the Coyotes, even if they have a team back to help close that wound.

Here's the oddity of the weekend: Shane Doan will play against his former team even though he has never left the organization that drafted him. Huh? Of course we're taking some liberties with relocation here, but Doan is originally a Jet, playing 74 games in Winnipeg before moving to Phoenix and becoming a career Coyote.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!

You just have to love Saturday's in the NHL. You are almost always guaranteed your favorite team will be playing, but if not, you will have plenty of other games to choose from. This Saturday, 28 of the league's 30 teams will be in action.

Only the Hurricanes and the Ducks have the night off.

Still standing

There are still are still six teams in the NHL that have yet to lose (yes, I'm counting OT losses as losses, imagine that). The Flyers, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Red Wings and Sharks all remain unblemished. In the case of the Sharks and Sabres, they'll have to do double duty to remain perfect come Monday.

Best chance for a loss? Have to think it's Buffalo in Pittsburgh with Detroit visiting the Wild next on the list.

On the flip side

Of course, there are still some teams looking for a win, too. The Rangers, Jets and Blue Jackets are yet to experience the thrill of victory. In the case of the Jets, they remain pointless going into the weekend.

Fun with numbers

Small sample sizes create fun little stats such as James Neal of the Penguins leading the NHL in goals (with four in five games), the Senators' Erik Karlsson ahead in assists with six and the Predators' David Legwand in front for points at seven. Even with the small sample size distorting things, did anybody foresee a Predator near the top of an offensive category?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 12, 2011 1:28 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 1:51 pm

Daily Skate: Canucks won't forget Methot's hit

By Brian Stubits

METHOT MARKED: The Canucks played in Columbus on Monday night and during the game Henrik Sedin took a hard check into the boards from the Blue Jackets' Marc Methot. While he didn't get any supplementary discipline from the NHL for the hit, there could be more waiting from Vancouver down the line. Kevin Bieksa says a few Canucks tried to challenge Methot to a fight to no avail, so he had this to say afterward: "Hank's a tough guy and he'll take that for the team. But we'll remember that." (Vancouver Sun)

PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY: When Daniel Carcillo arrived in Chicago for his introductory press conference, he decided to fit right in and take some shots at Vancouver, including Tanner Glass, saying he'd "keep them in check" this season. Problem is, Glass is with the Jets now. "He should probably figure out what team I’m on before he starts doing stuff like that. The funny thing is, I’ve asked him to fight before, and he said no. It’s kind of surprising that he called me out in the media. I have no pre-existing relationship with him. He’s a donkey; everyone knows he’s a donkey, that’s just his thing." (Illegal Curve)

SALAK BACK: Speaking of the Blackhawks, they recalled Alexander Salak from the AHL on Wednesday. Corey Crawford had missed the previous two days of practice, but on Wednesday he was back and Ray Emery wasn't present. Interesting goings ons in Chicago. (CSN Chicago)

SPOT PRACTICE START: I just love these stories. The Capitals had to sit out Michal Neuvirth in practice on Wednesday for what Bruce Boudreau called a lower body injury (he is available for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh, coach said). Since you kind of need two goalies, they got PR man Sergey Kocharov to fill in. (Capitals Watch)

BACK TO THE TANK: The San Jose Sharks are moving their next few practices to the HP Pavilion, where they play their games. The idea? Coach Todd McLellan wants his team to get used to the new boards and glass so they can keep their home-ice advantage. Good thinking. (Working the Corners)

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET: That is one way to desribe Phil Kessel's shot. Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer talks about the invisible shot that is so quick of his team's All-Star forward. He sounds glad to be on the other side of the ice. (Toronto Sun)

TO BOO OR NOT TO BOO? That is the question begging Senators fans about Sergei Gonchar. There is no question in this blogger's mind Gonchar deserves it for his indifference in Ottawa to start the season. (Silver Sens)

NYSTROM CLEARS: The Minnesota Wild placed Eric Nystrom on waivers last week then put him on re-entry waivers on Tuesday. Both times he cleared. So even at half price, nobody was willing to take a shot on the 28-year-old who had just four goals and a minus-16 last season. (Russo's Rants)

CHANT ALONG: Finally, as a request by @CoachBlueweiss after yesterday's Daily Skate item about the Maple Leafs' (and others') new goal song, here is some love to the Islanders' for this year, a little diddy called Crowd Chant by Joe Satriani. Not bad.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:34 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 2:33 pm

Realignment roundabout: Is Vancouver the key?

By Brian Stubits

Oh, that Bob McKenzie. He got the hockey Internet all riled up on Tuesday night with a few simple tweets about realignment.

I took the liberty of filling out some of the Twitter short-hand:

More and more NHL governors convinced Detroit will be moving to Southeast Division in Eastern Conference when realignment done in early December. If Detroit goes to Southeast, it's plausible and possible Winnipeg could take Detroit's place in Central Division. Realignment would be done.

If that happened, Dallas would be most unhappy. Stars want in Central Division. NHL won't put Minnesota in otherwise all Canadian division. Winnipeg said to be cool being in Central with four U.S. teams.

Seeing as how big of a conversation this has been, it didn't take long for it blow up. I imagine McKenzie sitting back from his computer screen watching the carnage saying "Dance, puppets, dance!"

The solution that McKenzie (and E.J. Hradek last week) says is the most likely would leave a lot of pissed of people. Here's one. And here's another. It would be the easiest way out and wouldn't give any of teams that are hoping for it the change they so desperately desire.

So after digesting the masses for a little bit, I came to the realization that the whole key in this realignment scenario, to make it all work, is Vancouver. Yes, the Canucks could make all the puzzle pieces fit if they would be willing to budge.

Keeping in mind what McKenzie says about no American team (the Wild or Avalanche) wanting to be the only American team in a division with four Canadian squads and it being apparent that the six-division format might be sticking around, the answer seems simple enough to me now. It all begins with Winnipeg moving to the Northwest. Now instead of bumping Colorado to the Pacific, Vancouver gets the bump. Now you have a Northwest Division that consists of Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Minnesota and Colorado. Nobody is in the Pacific Time Zone.

The only drawback I see is from a competitive standpoint. The Northwest would seemingly be weak, the Pacific very strong. But those things always fluctuate and there's no telling when things will turn for the better or worse.

The dominoes continue, then, with Dallas getting its wish and moving to the Central Division after you ship Detroit to the East (we'll shuffle pieces there next). Sorry folks out West, but it seems like it will happen.

Clearly Vancouver wouldn't like to be separated from its Canadian rivals in Edmonton and Calgary. That's why this solutiion is so unlikely. And in the process, we'd create a monster division with the Canucks, Kings, Sharks, Ducks and Coyotes (but who knows for how long there).

But here's my thinking with Vancouver. Somebody is going to pay in this whole mess. Whether it is Dallas remaining in a division where it is two hours ahead of its rivals (if you don't think Dallas could use a serious jolt, look at the barely more than 6,000 in attendance vs. Phoenix on Columbus Day). Vancouver, meanwhile, doesn't need any such help. Let's be honest, that city could move to the Southeast and it wouldn't hurt the fan base one bit. So they'll play a few less games against the Flames and Oilers, rebalancing the schedules will help that.

By making all those moves, everybody is pretty much happy out West, except Vancouver (and maybe San Jose and the SoCal duo). But from a geographical and time zone standpoint, there's nothing to complain about.

On to the East: Moving Detroit to the Southeast makes as much sense as eating meatloaf for Thanksgiving dinner. Sure you can do it, but who wants to?

So this is the plan that I still think works best. Detroit joins the Northeast, bumping the Bruins to the Atlantic (I know, the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry will be missed, but again, balance the schedule!) to join the New York teams and Philly for a strong Northeastern U.S. pod and bump the Penguins to the Southeast.

This is still not massive overhaul for the NHL. And the hope for people wanting to see a dramatic change is that there is still time. No decisions from the NHL are expected until December, if not later. But the way I see it now, the best way to right all the geographicals wrongs of the divisions as they stand can be corrected by the Canucks (and did I mention the scheduling?)

So to summarize, here's how I would like to see a six-division format with Detroit going East look like.

Proposed Standings
Western Conference Eastern Conference
Pacific Northwest Central Northeast Atlantic Southeast
Canucks Oilers Blackhawks Maple Leafs Bruins Penguins
Sharks Flames Blue Jackets Red Wings Rangers Capitals
Kings Jets Blues Canadiens Islanders Hurricanes
Ducks Wild Predators Senators Devils Lightning
Coyotes Avalanche Stars Sabres Flyers Panthers

Since this is a topic where everybody and their mother has an opinion, feel free to share and rip away at yours truly (as if you needed my permission!)

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 9, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:56 pm

Habs' Cammalerri, Spacek injured in win over Jets

By Brian Stubits

It wasn't all good for the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night in Winnipeg.

They played the ultimate party poopers and tried their best to wreck the atmosphere in the Hangar (as they are starting to call the MTS Centre). It was a sounds 5-1 win for their first two points of the season. However it cost them a couple players, perhaps for some time.

Mike Cammalleri, who will go down as the first player to score an NHL goal in the MTS Centre, left the game soon after. It was a scary situation as he returned to the bench and immediately was looking to get off the ice, clearly in same pain. Since there is no exit from the bench but instead in the corners, he had to have play stopped before he could leave. Eventually he was helped off the ice in a hurry, favoring his leg.

As you can see, he was slashed by the skate of teammate Yannick Weber. TSN says the cut is likely going to sideline Cammalleri for up to two weeks.

Also in the first period, the Canadiens lost Jaroslav Spacek for the remainder of the game with what was described as an upper-body injury. If he's out for any time at all, it's going to hurt the Habs. They are already thin on defense with Chris Campoli's injury and Andrei Markov still not back as he recovers from a knee injury that cost him the end of last season. They just can't really afford for much more to go wrong with the defense at this point.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 9, 2011 7:57 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 9:07 pm

Jets loss can't dampen party mood in Winnipeg

By Brian Stubits

Hockey is back in Winnipeg. On Sunday, that's all that mattered as the Jets were outworked and beaten by the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in their first official game as the Jets since 1996.

But that's hardly enough to damped the mood in the 'Peg. For now it's still the honeymoon. But when the joy of the pregame celebrations wore off, it was clear that this is still the Thrashers team that only made the playoffs once in franchise history. There will be more growing pains. But these will be the most pleasant pains I think any fan base has ever gone through.

The game was particularly tough on Jets defenseman Johnny Oduya. There's no doubt that he gets the status as the goat for the first game back in Manitoba. He turned the puck over not once but twice in his own defensive zone, leading to the Habs' first two goals of the night.

More on Canadiens-Jets

Again, though, that was an afterthought. The Canadiens could have won 17-1, the fans would have loved every second of it. The place got especially buzzing after Nik Antropov put himself in Winnipeg lore by scoring the first goal for the "new" Jets. For a minutes after, it was as good as it got all game. The Jets were buzzing, the electricity was back in the building and hit a high after Winnipeg's Mark Stuart lit up Canadiens captain Brian Gionta.

On Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, there were plenty of thanks being given. Get this: Commissioner Gary Bettman, who once ripped a franchise away from the 'Peg and shipped it to Phoenix, wasn't even booed.

"It wasn't personal then and while frankly I'm happy to have been a part of the equation that restored the team, the credit goes to the people in Winnipeg without whom this wouldn't be happening," Bettman said.

They were raucous before the game began. The only thing that could quiet the crowd was a touching tribute to the late Rick Rypien, who played with the Manitoba Moose and signed with the Jets in the offseason before committing suicide this summer. His mother came onto the ice to drop the ceremonial first puck. The emotion was oozing from the arena.

After that it was mostly all joy. However you couldn't help but feel for the fans back in Atlanta.

That, of course, is the byproduct here, that fans of the Thrashers -- and there were fans of the Thrashers -- are left in the dark. If they had the stomach to watch the game, it had to be gut-wrenching. Jets fans know the feeling, though, and can empathize. It's just that now that's over, and "Go Jets Go" chants fill the arena once again.

They were so appreciative in Winnipeg for this game and the return of hockey, every soul stayed in their seats and gave a standing ovation for the final minute. Of a 5-1 loss.

The official three Stars of the night were listed as Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and Antropov. But if you polled everybody in the arena on Sunday, the obvious answer for the first star is Mark Chipman, the man most responsible for bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:44 am

Wings owner Ilitch: Bettman promised move to East

By Brian Stubits

If the Detroit Red Wings aren't in the Eastern Conference next season, there is going to be one angry owner.

Ever since the Atlanta Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets and moved to Manitoba, realignment became an inevitability. And since the beginning of time (OK, the creation of the conferences), Detroit has wanted to be in the East. The long plane rides and late-night games that go past midnight back home aren't necessarily ideal.

Mike Ilitch, the Red Wings owner, has been incredibly vocal about his team's desire to move. Now he says he downright expects it because Gary Bettman promised him as much. In a Q&A with Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News, Ilitch explained the conversation.

Q. OK, once and for all, are you gonna get the Wings out of the Western Conference or not?
A. The commissioner (Gary Bettman) promised me I was next. We even had a meeting over lunch this past season, and he had all his people here, and he goes, 'Yeah, I promised Mike he'd be the next one to go in the Eastern Conference.' So I expect to be in next year. Jimmy D (Devellano) is on the phone every other week reminding them.

(By the way, Ilitch also said they are working on a new arena to replace the Joe, saying "we're going to have a new arena.")

My guess is that might have been a case of Ilitch hearing what he wanted to hear. It's certainly possible that Bettman made such a promise to him, but I'm not ready to go all-in on that being correct. What's more, no matter if Bettman promises it, it still has to be approved by a 2/3 majority of the board of governors. Now whatever Bettman and crew say usually goes, but it's still not a guarantee.

Remember, there will be a lot of opposition to the Red Wings from the teams in the West. No team in the conference draws as well as Detroit on the road. When you start talking money, people get a little more serious, and defensive.

The more I think about Detroit joining the East, the more I begin to believe they might just tear up the current format of six divisions. There's no real way Detroit slides seamlessly into the East. Do they just replace Atlanta in the Southeast? Doesn't seem right. Maybe you move Pittsburgh to the Southeast, Detroit to the Atlantic? I can't imagine Pittsburgh would like being broken up with the Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Islanders one bit.

Instead, if Ilitch is under the right belief and the Wings are flying East, I think you'd see a scenario where they bring a team, likely the Columbus Blue Jackets, with them. You then have the destruction of six division, instead having four. The only thing is that leaves you with two divisions of eight and two with seven, but with a return to the balanced schedule, it helps things.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com