ST. LOUIS --
From the perspectives of the St. Louis Blues
and Detroit Red Wings
on NHL realignment, there's one common denominator that has both teams excited.
Particularly for the Red Wings, who have to play out of the Eastern time zone, cutting down on travel is something that really excites them.
"The initial reaction is I like the format," defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
said. "It's going to be a lot less travel for the team. That part I like."
Wings coach Mike Babcock said the body works wonders when there's less travel involved.
"When you live in the East and you play in the West, that's the hardest thing," Babcock said. "One more hour is a huge deal. Lots of teams think they go through the same thing, I disagree. Body clock-wise, it's huge for you.
"I think it's a great thing for the Detroit Red Wings, but maybe even better just that our fans get to see the Original Six teams every year and any new kid that's drafted in the League that you haven't seen, you get to see now just because you play everybody." -- Mike Babcock
"I think it's a great thing for the Detroit Red Wings
, but maybe even better just that our fans get to see the Original Six teams every year and any new kid that's drafted in the League that you haven't seen, you get to see now just because you play everybody."
From a travel perspective, the Blues like the move as well. That means one less trip to California and one less trip to Western Canada.
"That's huge," center Jason Arnott
said. "You find a big difference, especially in the East and West, travel-wise … especially in the playoffs, it will help a lot. More rest will make for a better game."
One conference will feature St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg, where Blues coach Ken Hitchcock would like to travel very early in the season.
"I hope we go to Winnipeg in October and November," Hitchcock said in a jovial manner. "That's my first thought, or maybe they can move it to September. It's good football season there.
On first glance Sid a fan of realignment
didn't have much time to digest a complicated realignment plan passed by the NHL Board of Governors on Monday night. READ MORE ›
"You look at the eight teams … pick four that are out. It's a hard thing to do. There's a lot of hard teams in our conference. You're going to have to have your 'A' game for a lot of nights if you expect to make the playoffs now. It's the toughest conference I've ever been associated with since I've been in the League, if you look at that for next year."
Hitchcock believes the team that benefits most is Dallas, a team he once coached. He remembered the day when the Stars, who play in the Central time zone, were jettisoned to the Pacific Division.
"I was there when we went to the Pacific, and it was like, 'Oh my God,' because it wasn't just like going to the Pacific, it was eight games in the Pacific, and it was four games up north with Vancouver and it was very, very hard on everything," Hitchcock said. "It seemed like two or three times a month, you would arrive home in rush-hour traffic. It felt at times during the second half of the schedule that you were living your day backwards. It was not comfortable.
"I think that they're probably the team that benefits the most because they're back in their time zone and they're back with a lot less travel."
As far as rivalries, the teams from the current Central Division keep what rivalries they feel they have, plus develop new ones with the Stars, Wild and Jets.
"The Detroit-St. Louis rivalry and the Chicago-St. Louis rivalry are real eye openers for me," said Hitchcock, who's coached in Columbus, Dallas and Philadelphia. "Both of these rivalries feel very similar to the Rangers-Philadelphia, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh rivalries. It's a very familiar feeling when you're on the bench and you're looking in the stands and the intensity of the games and the noise in the building. It's very similar for me."
Added Babcock: "I would have been ecstatic if they told me we were going in the East, but I'm happy with this, too. It works out good for everybody.
"St. Louis and us, we haven't really had a rivalry, but I think there's going to be one coming just because of how good their hockey club is now."