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Blue Jackets pleased with realignment

by Arpon Basu /
MONTREAL -- The Columbus Blue Jackets were one of a handful of teams the NHL was trying to satisfy with its radical realignment proposal that was approved by the Board of Governors Monday.

Judging by some of the reactions of coach Scott Arniel and the Blue Jackets players on Tuesday, it would appear that mission was accomplished.

"Obviously for us, anything that reduces our travel would be good," Arniel said. "Having to go to the west coast as much as we do, even Mountain Time, has been very difficult. Coming home we're either losing two or three hours. For us being in the central (time zone) will be real good for us.

"Not everybody will be happy, but I think that the League has looked at a lot of different situations and this one is probably the one most people are satisfied with."

The Blue Jackets and Red Wings are currently the only two teams in the Western Conference who are in the Eastern time zone, making it more difficult for their fans to watch a lot of their road games and also adding a burden on the players.

Playing a majority of their road games just one time zone over -- as opposed to two or three -- should make things a lot easier for the Blue Jackets to handle, said captain Rick Nash.


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"It will mean less travel, more games in our time zone in the east, so we're excited about it," Nash said. "It's tough. We only have one team, Detroit, in our own time zone so every time we come home we get there an hour or two hours later. But it's the same for the teams out west with a lot of time changes, so hopefully this will minimize some of that with the new alignment."

Center Antoine Vermette can't help but admit he was hoping to see the Blue Jackets land in a division that would mean he would play more games in Montreal near his family in Quebec.

"At first I was hoping to be moving to the east, just because I come from around here and I like coming here," Vermette said in French. "But at the same time our travel was cut down. We're cutting some trips to the west coast and that's a good thing, but a little part of me wanted to come play more often around here and to see my family more often."

When told that under the proposed realignment he would actually be guaranteed a trip to Montreal every year instead of once every two years under the current system, Vermette's eyes perked up.

"Yeah, you're right," he admitted. "So there's that positive to it as well."

Vermette didn't want to make it too dramatic describing the Blue Jackets' current travel situation, and he definitely did not want to use it as an excuse for the team's poor performance this season. But he said it is a minor factor that gets heaped on top of the rigors that all NHL players are subjected to over a long season.

"I've seen both sides of it, playing in the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference," Vermette said. "When I was in Ottawa, a lot of the trips were an hour away. So it's different and it's tough, but there are tougher things in life for sure. It's not the end of the world.

"But it becomes taxing in the long-term, the seasons are long and demanding. There's a lot of pressure on us collectively and individually we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, so ultimately this is just another factor that adds to the exhaustion and that you have to manage."

And it could be one fewer factor the Blue Jackets may need to manage going forward.
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