With final approval coming today for NHL realignment for the 2013-14 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets now know for sure that they will be headed to the Eastern Conference next season. While there may have been initial concerns that the Blue Jackets might struggle to be competitive while facing the top teams in the East on a regular basis, their current eight-game point streak against the top teams in the Western Conference is showing that they might be able to survive realignment after all. Columbus has two wins over the Detroit Red Wings and points from games against the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks in the past two weeks.
The Blue Jackets new division will see them join the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. While the prospect of facing the Penguins, Rangers and Hurricanes on a regular basis is enough to strike fear into any opponent, the Blue Jackets have shown this season they can survive despite a rash of injuries thanks to some surprising young offense and the goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky.
The realignment guarantees that Blue Jackets fans will get to see their former star Rick Nash at least twice a season, as the new format will have division foes meeting at least four times (two at home, two away minimum) per season. The new plan also has every team visiting each opposing team at least once, which certainly won’t have a negative affect on Columbus’ attendance.
The Blue Jackets will be rebuilding for a few seasons yet, but have a lot of young talent on its way to the NHL. They have proven ready to move out of the Central Division basement this season, and with reduced travel next season they may manage to be competitive in the new Eastern Conference.