If the Atlanta Thrashers do indeed move to Winnipeg, Man. for the 2011-12 season, there might not be any divisional or conference re-alignment after all. At least not for the first season, according to Darren Dreger of TSN and Craig Custance of the Sporting News. Here's Custance:
This situation is far from settled, but multiple sources told Sporting News that the most likely scenario right now would be to keep Winnipeg in the Southeast for one season and then restructure the divisions in 2012.
Winnipeg. In the Southeast Division. Needless to say, that could be a complete nightmare.
A quick breakdown of the mileage between Winnipeg and each Southeast Division city:
Washington D.C.: 1,231 miles
Raleigh, N.C.: 1,340 miles
Tampa Bay, Fla.: 1,701 miles
Sunrise, Fla.: 1,894 miles.
That's one-way air mileage, airport-to-airport. Of course, the Winnipeg team would certainly bunch their trips to the East and play several division teams at one time, but for the Southeast teams that actually play in the Southeast United States?
They'll each have to make three trips to Winnipeg each year, and since every team near Winnipeg is a Western team, they won't have the same luxury. You only play cross-conference teams once, at most, on the road.
This could hurt the Capitals, Lightning, Hurricanes and Panthers more than anything else.