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How Does Atlanta’s Move To Winnipeg Effect the Devils?

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#1 westcoastdevfan


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Posted 20 May 2011 - 01:30 PM

Posted ImageNew Jersey Devils vs. Winnipeg Jets

According to an unsubstantiated report in the Globe and Mail, the Atlanta Thrashers rumored relocation to Winnipeg is all but done. An announcement is expected by Tuesday of next week. So while we are waiting for the official word I wanted to take some time to turn our attention to realignment and the impact it could have on the New Jersey Devils.

First of all, had the Phoenix Coyotes been the club moving this subject would be pretty cut and dry because Phoenix is in the West as would be the rumored Winnipeg club. A simple swap of cities, a divisional shift here or there and we’re done. However, the people of Glendale, Arizona stepped in and saved the franchise, kudos to them. The Coyotes are now the NHL version of the walking dead aka a zombie. Unfortunately for Atlanta there will be no such reprieve and thus the current conundrum. You see Atlanta is in the Eastern Conference as a member of the Southeast Division. Now I’m no geography wiz or anything but last time I checked Winnipeg was not in the southeast or even the east for that matter. So naturally to accommodate the move the NHL would be forced to realign.

From what I’m hearing there are several possibilities the NHL could utilize. Winnipeg is located in central Canada and would be a natural fit in the Western Conference’s Central Division. Both the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets play in the Central and look like the most obvious choices for the move. Columbus would be the best fit because they are the easternmost team located in the Western Conference. According to Wikepedia, they are only a three hour drive from the nearest Eastern Conference team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville could be a fit because they would be the south’s replacement for Atlanta and the other team name being bounced around is the Detroit Red Wings. Supposedly Detroit was promised the next available opening in the East after the NHL’s last realignment. So for fun let’s see if any of these supposed team swaps would dramatically affect the Devils.

We have to look at how New Jersey would be impacted by losing the chance to beat up on Atlanta every year. Being that they were in the same conference, the Devils were fortunate enough to play Atlanta four times a year. If the Thrashers relocate to Winnipeg and the West that will be slashed from one to two games a year at the most. If we look at how New Jersey has matched up against Atlanta historically that may cost the Devils one or two extra wins a year. New Jersey has been dominant against the Thrashers since the team entered the league in 1999. In fact, the Thrashers played their first game on October 2, 1999 and lost 4–1 to the Devils. That defeat basically set the tone for every meeting from then on. New Jersey won 26 of the 44 total meetings including outscoring them 141-101! But, what is even more astonishing is the Devils record in Atlanta, where they have be victorious in 14 of 22, a winning percentage of .636! If would be tough to find a suitable punching bag to replace those possible “W’s.”

A Columbus move to the East would be a nice alternative considering the Devils have never had any problems dispatching one of the NHL’s youngest clubs. Since the Jackets inception in 2000 they have only two regulation win against the Devils. New Jersey has owned Columbus with an incredible 7–2–1–1 record in eleven head to head meetings. If not playing Atlanta four times a year is a bad thing then playing Columbus four times a year is the perfect consolation.

Nashville is tossed in to the conversation because they would be the “South’s” last stand in the NHL. Many Devils’ fans still cringe when they hear the words, “Nashville” and “relocation” used in the same sentence. In 1995, it was rumored that New Jersey would be relocating to a planned Nashville Arena after the Stanley Cup Finals. Nashville offered to pay $20 million to relocate any team interested, the Devils unsuccessfully attempted to terminate their lease with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The Devils stayed put and Nashville was given an expansion team. Although not as dominant, New Jersey also has managed to collect a winning record against the Preds as well. Historically the Devils are 9-5-0-2 in 16 regular season meetings. But New Jersey has no problem playing in the “honky-tonk” of Nashville where they are almost unbeatable, going to 6-1-0-1 all time.

Last but certainly not least, the Red Wings. The only team the Devils have any playoff history with. New Jersey came into the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals as the underdog, David and they quickly and efficiently defeated Goliath. The Cup win signified the start of the Devils dominance in the NHL. Since then New Jersey has won 2 more Stanly Cups and the Wings have won four! The two teams have combined to win 7 of the last 16 Stanley Cup titles. Despite some signs of age, the Red Wings are still a force to be reckoned with in the NHL and a switch to the East would shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. The Devils still have a winning record all time against Detroit (24-22-8-1-0) but now they would face the possibility of playing them early in the playoffs, a daunting task for any team.

Any way you slice it the big winner in all of this are the suffering fans in Winnipeg. In the end the whole discussion may be for nothing because as of right now no relocation deal is done. But for now it’s fun to speculate, especially for Devils fans and our extended summer.

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