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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced today that the Thrashers have been sold to True North Sports and Entertainment and that the franchise will be moving to Winnipeg. Despite the general assumption that they'll be called the Winnipeg Jets, however, no team name has been confirmed yet. So, how does this all relate to the Rangers?
The move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg has sparked speculation that they will be moved to the Western Conference. If that happens, it will open the door for a Western Conference team in turn being moved over to the Eastern Conference. Enter the Detroit Red Wings. Red Wings fans and the organization have both long-coveted a move back to the Eastern Conference, and it's possible it could become a reality with the Thrashers likely moving to the Western Conference at some point in the near future. As of yesterday, however, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Red Wings have not been contacted by the NHL about switching conferences as of yet.
"Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Monday that he had not been contacted by the NHL about a possible move to the Eastern Conference, pending the sale of the Atlanta franchise."
"The NHL, however, hasn't yet reached out to the Wings about a possible move, which probably wouldn't come until the 2012-13 season, anyway, as the schedule for next season is nearly finalized.
'We've been told nothing,' Holland said. 'I don't have any information. I know what I read in the newspaper.'"
Holland confirmed in the Detroit Free Press story that he would prefer to be in the East, though a story published on DetroitSports360.com on May 20th speculated that it's possible the Columbus Blue Jackets or Nashville Predators could also be considered being moved to the Eastern Conference in the future.
So, the movement of the Thrashers to Winnipeg could potentially open the door for another team that the Rangers would be competing with for a playoff spot on a yearly basis. With teams like the Capitals, Penguins and Flyers already battling at the top of the East on a yearly basis and teams like the Lightning emerging as a serious contender, adding a team like the Red Wings or Predators to the East could make qualifying for the playoffs even harder for the Rangers in the future. It's obviously still too early to know what's going to happen, but it's worth pondering. Even though the Thrashers were sometimes a thorn in the Rangers' side, I think every New York Ranger fan would rather be facing the Thrashers in a playoff race instead of a team like Detroit or Nashville.
We'll see what happens. Personally, I think moving the Red Wings back to the East would be great for hockey and all the Original Six teams. It would also make for quite the awesome rivalry with the Rangers if they played each other more than once a year.
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