When Winnipeg Jets chairman and governor, Mark Chipman, walked into the Matt Frost Media Centre deep in the bowels of MTS Centre on Tuesday night, there was only one question worth asking: "Is there any part of this realignment deal you don’t like?"
Chipman paused, but not for long. He looked back at his inquisitor and said: "No. Maybe it would be better if the conferences had the same number of teams… but I am not suggesting there should be expansion.
"I thought about that question coming over here tonight. And no, there is nothing about this realignment I don’t like."
Apparently no one else had much of a beef either. After all, It only took an hour to resolve. 26 teams voted in favor and the Jets brass got pretty much exactly what it was after.
To recap: Monday night in California, the National Hockey League approved a new four-conference system to begin in the 2012-13 season. It’s a system that will replace the current two-conference, six-division system.
The Jets will play in an eight-team "Central" Conference with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis. There will be a Western Conference made up of Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver. In the East, there will be two seven-team conferences: One includes Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto and the other is made up of Carolina, New Jersey, the Islanders, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. The top four teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs and while some owners believe it isn’t perfect, it makes more sense than what the league has now.
"There were an incredible number of options on the table and it was up to us to see what was best," Chipman said. "I can’t see anything at all wrong with what we decided. We aren’t in a conference with any other Canadian teams, but the way the schedule will set up, we’ll play home-and-home with all the Canadian teams every year. If we’d gone into the Northwest, which was one of the options, we would not have seen Montreal or Toronto every year.
"Look, this isn’t perfect. Nothing we could have done would have been perfect, but this is good. I’m quite happy with it."
The Jets will play most of their games — even on the road — in their onw time zone and that will make travel manageable. And, according to Chipman, his team will also be able to start building rivalries with teams he admires.
"As a hockey purist, our conference is great," he said. "We get to compete against Detroit and Chicago and we get them in our building a lot. It’s great to play against Original Six teams. We also have teams like Nashville, Dallas and Minnesota along with Detroit and Chicago that are well-run organizations. These are high watermark teams and they are the types of teams you want to compete against.
"I also like that we’ll be playing against Minnesota. That’s a great organization with very knowledgeable fans. I have a lot of respect for the way they run their club. I’m really happy about playing against Minnesota. We’ll have a great rivalry against them."
Chipman was asked if he liked the conference arrangement, inasmuch as a fifth- or even sixth-place team in one conference could be eliminated from the playoffs by fourth-place teams in other conferences that might not have as many points. Chipman just shrugged.
"That will happen. That happens in all sports," Chipman said. "It’s not going to be perfect. But I look at it this way: Just go out and win games. You have to win games. If you don’t win a lot of games and make the playoffs and then win a lot of games in the playoffs, then you aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup anyway. We just have to go out and win games."
Wow! No regrets, no excuses. That’s refreshing.