So it was made official this morning that the Atlanta Thrashers have been sold and are moving north to Winnipeg. The organization will have its hands full over the next season and beyond as they attempt to prove that a small Canadian market is better than the large Atlanta market. The way things were going in Atlanta, I have no doubt that Winnipeg will have more enthusiasm for the club than existed in Georgia. We could talk for days on the viability of non-traditional hockey markets, but let’s discuss what this means for the Los Angeles Kings.
It might seem like the Winnipeg situation is pretty far removed from the comforts of the California sun. However, there is a great likelihood that Winnipeg will move to the Western Conference and another team would switch to the Eastern Conference. Several teams have been discussed as candidate to move to the East, specifically Detroit, Columbus, and Nashville.
If it’s Detroit: Cue cheers from the Western Conference. Detroit always seems to have a great season, regardless of departing players due to defection, retirement, or otherwise. Who knows what Detroit will be like next season without Brian Rafalski, but I’d be willing to bet they make the playoffs yet again. If you were to choose between playing against the Red Wings or the Thrashers 4+ times, of course you would choose the Thrashers. So, if Detroit moves, good for the West.
If it’s Nashville: Also, would likely be favorable for the Western Conference. Smashville is another team that always manages to have a good season and finally got over the first round hump in the playoffs this season. If they’re on the rise, that just means another team in the East that won’t make the post-season cut (Keep in mind, Dallas and Calgary both had enough points to make the Playoffs in the East this past season, but didn’t make it in the hyper-competitive West). Nashville plays a very Western Conference style so it would be interesting to see how they transition to the East. That said, this one should put a chill in Southeast Division teams. Nashville moving is good for the West, bad for Jonathan Bernier who owned them this past season.
If it’s Columbus: Harder to say. Columbus is very up and down over the past few season, but it feels like Columbus is better suited for the Eastern Conference, run and gun, offensive style. Hitchcock didn’t fit in Columbus and it feels like Columbus is itching to play an offensive style. Guys like Rick Nash, Antoine Vermette, Derick Brassard, and Jakub Voracek are all guys who could benefit from being in the East. If Columbus moves, “meh” for the West. Not that Columbus wasn’t competitive, but it’s more of a fair swap taking the Thrashers over the Blue Jackets.
All of that said, so much can change over a summer. We have no idea what any of these teams will be like come next season and favor can swing in any direction. The only thing we can say with any certainty is nostalgia will be messed with. It will be weird to play in the opposite conference as Detroit for historical reasons. Less so for Nashville and Columbus, but still it will be strange. It oddly feels like that first day of school, where you have a new class and are getting acquainted with the new faces you’ll be seeing all year. Although the Thrashers/Jets/Falcons/Moose/Polar Bears won’t be in the Western Conference next season, Kings fans should get a good look at their faces. They’ll be sharing a classroom in the not-so-distant future.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney