With the expected approval on Tuesday for the Seattle expansion franchise at the board of governor’s meeting, the next question that will have to be determined is how to re-align the Western Conference as Seattle will obviously move into the Pacific Division, giving them nine teams, while the Central Division would have just seven. While there has been talk about moving the Arizona Coyotes over to the Central Division, many feel the team should stay where it is as they have short rivalry trips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles/Anaheim.
Another popular suggestion is to move both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames together to the Central Division and sending the Colorado Avalanche back to the Pacific Division. However, Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun writes that option isn’t very popular in Edmonton.
“We want to stay in the Pacific. And we’re pretty strong about it,” insists Bob Nicholson, vice chairman and CEO of the Oilers Entertainment Group. “Seattle is going to come into the league and when they do come in, we definitely do not want to move. We feel the rivalries are too strong for the NHL to do that to our franchise.”
The two teams have built rivalries in the Pacific, including one between the Flames and the Vancouver Canucks, while Edmonton has built some significant rivalries with some of the California teams, most specifically with recent playoff matchups with the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. Nicholson said the team intends to appeal to the NHL to allow the Oilers as well as the rival Flames to stay in the Pacific Division.
“I just believe we’ve been in the league a long time now and hopefully the league will respect our rivalries, especially the Calgary and Vancouver rivalries,” said Nicholson.
Of course, there are new potential rivalries between both Calgary and Edmonton with a team such as the Winnipeg Jets and even the Minnesota Wild. Regardless, Nicholson has a strong feeling the league will accept the wishes of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
“I’m relatively confident from the unofficial conversations that have gone on, so far,” Nicholson said. “I’m expecting it to be simple and that it will be Arizona that would move into the Central. If it gets more complicated than that, I think there would be big debates. We expect to stay where we are. I would think it would be Arizona that would move.”