This is now season two of the Detroit Red Wings playing in the Eastern Conference, after the franchise's declining success in the more dominant Western Conference forced its panicked executives to beg and plead with the league to make some changes that would give the appearance that Detroit was still a threat.
There's certainly no denying that the Wings' 23 season playoff streak is impressive, but that they would go through all of the trouble of forcing the league to move them to a weak division in the weaker conference in order to keep that streak alive is telling of just how little confidence the franchise has in its own long-term success.
Of course, to get their way they complained about travel times and timezones and insisted that these devastating issues were just too much to deal with and were the driving force behind their realignment demands, but if we actually just look at the approximated travel miles over the past few full-seasons (skipping the lockout-shortened 20
12-13 season), we can conclude that the Wings were bluffing.
First of all, the Wings never had it all that bad as far as travel. In the 2011-12 season, they ranked 13th in miles traveled. The season before that, they ranked 19th. Those are both pretty desirable spots to be in.
Their special treatment and realignment last season got them in an even more desirable spot, ranking 24th in travel miles, but the difference in actual miles traveled wasn't that impressive. Last season, they only had to travel 35,324 miles, but in the two full season before that they were only traveling 42,865 and 39,793 miles, respectively. They only saved themselves an average of about 6,000 miles a year, which isn't much of anything. Compare that to just the California teams alone, who actually have a considerable amount of travel, and the Red Wings' travel complaints are even more embarrassing:
|Los Angeles Kings||48,432||55,591||48,432|
|San Jose Sharks||57,612||43,994||56,254|
... And the California teams didn't even necessarily have the highest travel miles for each of those seasons!
The more favorable travel schedule didn't do them much good last season, as they barely backed in to the playoffs and saw their performance continue to decline.
It was the weaker competition that saved them. And luckily for them, the Eastern Conference looks to be prepared to serve up that weaker competition for many years to come.
Ducks @ Red Wings
Saturday, Oct 11, 2014, 4:00 PM PDT
Joe Louis Arena
The Ducks are just exhausted from all that Eastern travel, fall 3-1. Ben Lovejoy with the lone Anaheim Ducks goal.