Travel was one of the big concerns as we debated NHL realignment, especially for Western Conference teams. As it stands under the new four-conference system, the league will see a bit more balance when it comes to travel.
Dirk Hoag at SB Nation's Nashville Predators blog On the Forecheck crunched the numbers on the league's new alignment. Teams will play five or six games against other conference opponents, while a home-and-home will be played against each opponent from other conferences. Taking that into account, here's the breakdown:
|Central Conference||Avg. Dist.||West Conference||Avg. Dist.|
|Chicago Blackhawks||434||Anaheim Ducks||743|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||524||Calgary Flames||875|
|Dallas Stars||846||Colorado Avalanche||886|
|Detroit Red Wings||530||Edmonton Oilers||1008|
|Minnesota Wild||557||Los Angeles Kings||737|
|Nashville Predators||549||Phoenix Coyotes||812|
|St. Louis Blues||460||San Jose Sharks||745|
|Winnipeg Jets||863||Vancouver Canucks||895|
|East 1 Conference||Avg. Dist.||East 2 Conference||Avg. Dist.|
|Boston Bruins||637||Carolina Hurricanes||366|
|Buffalo Sabres||535||New Jersey Devils||173|
|Florida Panthers||1087||New York Islanders||191|
|Montreal Canadiens||617||New York Rangers||177|
|Ottawa Senators||576||Philadelphia Flyers||164|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||1013||Pittsburgh Penguins||289|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||553||Washington Capitals||195|
Travel is still obviously very easy for the teams in the mid-Atlantic U.S., and that's really to be expected with how the teams are in close quarters there. The teams in the old Northeast Division will see much more travel, but considering a good chunk of that extra travel will be to sunny Florida, they don't really get to complain.
The Panthers and Lightning might get to complain, but they get plenty of home games against the Canadiens and Maple Leafs to fill their seats. Money always mitigates concerns, and it's not as if they're traveling outside of their own time zone for those games anyway. NHL players getting on planes isn't exactly like you and I getting on a plane.
Detroit and Columbus might still be playing outside of their own time zone, but the travel for them is certainly much easier, with less trips out to the far reaches of the Western half of North America. Travel is still tough for teams way out West, but that's really just a fact of life for everything in the Western portion continent.
Things are spread out there, and there's nothing the NHL's Board of Governors can do about basic geography.
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