When Larry Brooks tweeted the rumor of a potential swap of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets between divisions and conferences, people right away thought it would be a good thing. After all, the Jets had only taken the Atlanta Thrashers’ Southeast Division spot because of relocation. They belonged in the Central Division, and naturally everyone looks at the poor, put-upon Blue Jackets as expendable.
I love the idea of swapping the Jets with another team. I’d said this when realignment was bantered about late last year, especially when I saw the new “conferences” – they’re laughable, but that’s for another debate. But the team I want the Jets to replace in the Central Division is the Nashville Predators, not the Blue Jackets.
To me, as someone who covers a team in the Central Division, it feels as though Nashville is out of place. The rest of the teams are in Midwestern cities that are fairly close to each other. The city closest to Nashville is St. Louis, but it’s only one hours’ drive time closer than Columbus. I’ve looked up the distance in miles between Columbus, Nashville and the other Southeast Division teams:
Charlotte, North Carolina: Columbus, 426 miles; Nashville, 408 miles
Miami, Florida: Columbus, 1155 miles; Nashville, 908 miles
Tampa, Florida: Columbus, 1022 miles; Nashville, 703 miles
Washington, DC: Columbus, 417 miles; Nashville, 664 miles
While the miles may be similar for Charlotte and slightly in favor of Columbus for Washington, you get a big difference once you figure in Florida. Everyone seems to forget those two teams, as evidenced by the two eastern “conferences” in that new realignment plan. Does anyone seriously think putting both Florida teams in with both Ontario teams, the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens is a good idea? If you’re complaining about travel time and mileage, there you go.
Of course, the really comical thing about this subject is that moving the Jets to the Central Division won’t necessarily ease their hardship with distance. The closest city is Chicago, and even that’s 150 miles off the 1000-mile mark. The rest are over 1000 miles away. It may not be as bad as being in the Southeast Division, but it’s still pretty far for them.
One more thing. How do we know the Blue Jackets would be good competition in the Southeast Division? Even with new faces on the team, I don’t think the Blue Jackets would fare well; they went 2-3 against the rest of the division last season, compared to Nashville’s 4-1 record against them. Columbus would not make the rest of the division better but would only serve as their doormats, even if they put up a fight. At least Nashville would prove to be a challenge as they do in the Central Division.
I don’t think we need to drastically realign the entire league. If you really want to make things right, swap the two teams that really don’t belong in their divisions. Just leave the Blue Jackets alone. They’ve suffered enough.