Here’s hoping that everyone has enjoyed the Nashville Predators’ best Western Conference playoff run to date. After all, it might be one of, if not the last.
That’s right. There’s a decent chance the Predators could move fairly soon.
No, not out of town. Shame of you if enough doubt still exists in your mind that you jumped to such a conclusion.
Lead owner Tom Cigarran and his group, along with CEO Jeff Cogen and his staff, have made clear their intention to keep the franchise here for the long term. Not only that, they’ve shown they can sell tickets and maintain a vibrant atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena for pretty much all of an 82-game season.
But what no one’s really talking about is that the Predators could go from the NHL’s Western Conference, where they’ve resided from the day they entered the league in 1998, to the Eastern Conference.
It’s big news throughout Canada that Winnipeg, Manitoba, wants to land an NHL franchise. There’s a building in place (The MTS Center) in that town already and a mayor eager to make it happen. In the minds of many, it’s not a question of if but when.
Winnipeg once was home to the franchise currently known as the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Coyotes have been the prime target in Winnipeg’s quest pretty much since the moment the NHL had to assume control
of that financially crippled franchise.
It came out during the early days of Nashville’s Western Conference semifinal series, when they were in Vancouver (a five-hour flight away) that Winnipeg’s next choice, if it can’t get the Coyotes out of Phoenix, is to bring the Atlanta Thrashers north.
That’s where things get interesting for the Predators. The Thrashers currently reside in the NHL’s Southeast Division. Winnipeg is about as far from the Southeast United States as you can get. So if it’s the Thrashers who move, realignment becomes necessary. There is no better geographical fit for the Southeast Division’s other teams (Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida).
Thus, the possibility exists for the Predators to end up in the Eastern Conference. It’s likely that the initial reaction would be that such a change is bad. Folks around here have gotten used to hating the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and — more recently — the Anaheim Ducks, and no one wants to give up real rivalries.
The truth is, though, that such a move would be good for the franchise.
Keep in mind that the majority of Eastern Conference games are finished before most Predators fans go to bed. That means more opportunity to watch on television.
The travel demands would be greatly decreased, which would benefit the players, who right now have to make repeated trips to California and Western Canada throughout the year. Not to mention the fact that Predators’ fans could get to more road destinations in the East more economically.
Then there would be the exposure gained by playing a couple times a year in New York and Toronto. Yes, Nashville players gained national profile this year, but this would be a whole different level.
Finally, there’s the fact that the Eastern Conference — at least right now — pales in comparison to the Western Conference in terms of overall depth.
To put it simply: It’s easier to win games in the East. The Predators have drafted and built an organization to withstand the rigors of the West, which means they might actually be monsters if they switch sides.
Yes, there is a chance the Nashville Predators could move. For once, that’s a good thing.