Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; National Hockey League alumni Red Kelly (left), Ted Lindsay, George Armstrong, Alex Delvecchio, and Kris Draper pose during an NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Realignment: Why Red Wings Fans Should Be Excited

Dec 2, 2011; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) checks Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40) during the third period at the First Niagara Center. Red Wings beat the Sabres 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

To many fans’ surprise, the NHLPA gave their approval to the NHL’s proposed re-alignment plan, which will be put to use starting next season and reevaluated after the 2014-2015 season.

This means that the Detroit Red Wings now belong to the Eastern Conference in the Central Division that consists of Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. While a vote from the NHL Board of Governors still has to make the plan official, it’s time to finally get excited.

How can we even contain our excitement? While the Original Six rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks may become a little less intense, there are now three other Original Six teams in our division. And two of them are Canadian. And Canadian fans are intense.

It’s going to be good.

Here are just a few reasons why this will be a good thing for the Red Wings.

1. 7:00/7:30 PM Game Times

No more late-night, west coast, western Canada road trips! Well, not as many as before, at least. We are now in a division where all the teams are in the Eastern Time Zone. No more 8:00pm start times either. Rivalry games will all be in our own time zone, and fans will only have to suffer through one long west coast road trip.

2. Home & Home Series with Every Team in the Western Conference

This has been the bane of my existence for quite some time. In the current set-up, the Red Wings see every Eastern Conference team once with a handful of them twice, once home, once away. With the one-time teams, one season they’ll play away, the next they’ll play home – which is why the Red Wings still have yet to play in Winnipeg.

With the new set up, each team plays each other at home and away. So we still get our lovely dose of teams like the San Jose Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks, and Chicago. And let’s not forget the Nashville Predators! Those teams we love to hate, we’ll still be seeing quite a bit of them.

3. Old Rivalries

Namely: Pittsburgh. Of course, we see them twice a season already because the NHL likes to call back to the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. And we’re all sick of it. But remember those fun games against Pittsburgh since then? When Jimmy Howard face-washed Sidney Crosby with his glove? Or when the Red Wings were down 4-0 in the first and took it all the way to a shootout? As much as we may dislike the Penguins (or at least their fans), the games will be entertaining.

4. New Rivalries

The division the Red Wings are moving to includes three Original Six teams: Toronto, Montreal, and Boston. I already thoroughly covered how awesome a rivalry with Toronto could be. The rivalry with Chicago was so intense because they were both Original Six and in our division. Imagine how ridiculous it’s going to be when there are three other teams with those same credentials. Canadiens fans will be swamping the Joe every Red Wings/Montreal game and it will tick us off. But it will lead to a ridiculous rivalry.

5. More Down Goes Brown!

If you are not familiar with Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown, shame on you! But please go read this article: A Hockey Fan’s Guide to NASCAR. Down Goes Brown is a Maple Leafs satire blogger, and his posts and tweets are just hilarious. But because his focus is mostly on the Leafs and their rivals/Eastern Conference Teams, there are not a lot of posts/comments related to the Red Wings.

That will change. And that should make a lot of people happy…or at least chuckle.

6. The Winter Classic

This would have happened whether realignment had gone through or not. But the 2014 Winter Classic will take place in Ann Arbor against Toronto. It was already calling back to the olden days of hockey with these two teams playing against each other. It only makes it better.

The thought of finally joining the Eastern Conference is an exciting one. With how the Red Wings have played lately, this is one of the only bright spots on the horizon for fans. A change would do them good, in more than one regard.

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