I have mixed feelings about the Thrashers leaving Atlanta. Mixed in that sometimes I care, and sometimes I really just don’t. The fact is that the Caps have yet to find a fierce rival within the Southeast, so when it comes to possible changes to the division, we could benefit in a lot of ways.
As you’ve no doubt heard, one of the possible scenarios for dealing with the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg includes eventually shifting the Detroit Red Wings into the Southeast Division, and I’m salivating at that prospect. Readers of Box Seats are no doubt tired of my Hockeytown fanaticism, but the fact remains that seeing our Caps play the Red Wings six times each season would be a real treat for fans of both teams.
I’ve heard from some folks who feel that adding the Red Wings would jeopardize our position as perennial division winners. I say “Who cares?” and “I certainly hope so.” The past few seasons have proven that the Caps are not seeing enough tough competition in the regular season, and that our division championships aren’t worth much more than beans. The time has long passed when we consider a Southeast Division championship a major achievement.
We’re falling flat in the playoffs because we’re ill prepared for the intensity of play. We’re ill prepared because we spend 20-some division games each season playing against teams that are inconsistent and lack strong fan support. Consequently, adding Detroit would mean better hockey for us to watch during the regular season, better preparation for the playoffs, and credibility our division has lacked due to the sporadic success of its teams.
As far as I’m concerned, all that’s left to determine is when. If you’re up in arms about the idea of the Caps having to travel 2,400 miles several times during the upcoming season, you have to realize that the playing field is still more or less even, given that all our fellow Southeast Division teams have even longer road trips associated with this change, especially Winnipeg, whic will be spending roughly half the season on an airplane. Sure, it puts us at a slight disadvantage within the conference, but like I said earlier, a little additional challenge in the regular season is just what the doctor ordered.
That being said, I would encourage the NHL to take the plunge on realigning the divisions sooner, rather than later. Don’t wait around to see how things shake out in Phoenix — Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the U.S., so it’s pretty important that we try to make a team stick there. Maybe I’m being overly ambitious since I’m anxious to know the outcome of this situation, but I think there’s plenty of time between now and the start of the season to work out the details.