The Columbus Blue Jackets are upbeat going into the 2013-14 campaign and not all of that is due to their late surge last season or even any of the roster moves they’ve made.
When the Blue Jackets joined the NHL in 2000-01, they were stuck in the Western Conference. Thanks to the NHL’s realignment, the Blue Jackets are going to spend far more time playing opponents closer to home as a member of the newly formed Metropolitan Division.
Having less travel time should be a big plus for the team, but it will also be beneficial to their fanbase and in turn, their bottom line.
“The big plus is just more accessibility for the fans, watching us play,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told The Dispatch in March. “It’s difficult when you go out West so often and we’re on Pacific time and they’re here on Eastern time and the game comes on at either 10 or 10:30.”
Beyond the more convenient start times for road games, Blue Jackets fans will also have plenty of reasons to show up for the contests at Nationwide Arena. Rick Nash will frequently come back to town with the New York Rangers and their other division rivals include Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as John Tavares and the New York Islanders.
Of course, with that level of competition, making the playoffs will be a sizable task, but then again, their old Central Division wasn’t exactly easy. In fact, the Blue Jackets have losing franchise records against all their former division rivals and a combined 100-148-7-39 record against them. By comparison they are 36-36-7-11 historically against the Metropolitan members, which isn’t exactly breathtaking, but does help highlight that they aren’t going from an easy situation into a brutal one.
It’s hard not to see realignment as a big win for the Blue Jackets as a franchise or, as Blue Jackets president Mike Priest put it, “it’s really hard to exaggerate how much it means to us.”