Frequent flights to and from the West Coast have been a competitive disadvantage for quite some time.
Mike Yeo had a choice to make on Feb. 12.
The Wild had just played its third game in four nights in its third different time zone -- and second in 24 hours -- at Vancouver. On Feb. 14, the Wild had a home game against Colorado.
What to do?
1) Fly home immediately after the Canucks game -- which would have included a long bus ride to the airport, having to clear customs and departing after midnight Pacific time -- and land at 5:30 in the morning Central time. 2) Get a decent night's rest in a Vancouver hotel before a morning flight home for essentially a wasted day of travel on Feb. 13 by landing in midafternoon.
Either way, there was no way the Wild coach could have called a practice for his team.
Yeo took Option 2.
Neither choice was going to be a good recipe for good legs on Feb. 14 against the Avalanche, so as disappointed as Yeo was with the 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado, maybe getting a point should be considered a coup.
This is why the Wild needs realignment. Being in the Northwest Division has been a competitive disadvantage to the Wild for far too long.
From the players' perspective, think of the wear and tear when they have to jet time zone to time zone to time zone all the time.
From the fans' perspective, how is it fair that your favorite team starts so many road games so late?
There was a reason the Wild's game that night in Vancouver -- a game in which the Wild played quite well despite losing 2-1 -- was the lowest-rated telecast of the season on Fox Sports North.
"For our team, realignment is critical," said Wild owner Craig Leipold.
Under the NHL's proposed realignment, six divisions will go down to four (two in the East with eight teams each, two in the West with seven teams each) with the Wild moving into a Midwest Division with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
To Leipold, this is perfect. Most teams are in the Central time zone. There's a chance to foster genuine geographical rivalries. There will be less time wasted going through customs, more opportunities to get home from road games at a decent hour.
And there's the monetary implication. With less time in the air and fewer nights in hotels, the Wild estimates it'll save $800,000 to $1 million a year in travel costs.
Last week, all 30 teams and the NHL Players' Association received the league's plan for realignment, which includes Detroit and Columbus moving to the Eastern Conference.
"My input was I'm ready to vote on it right now, and frankly I think probably most of the other owners are right now," Leipold said.
The union has some concerns, though, particularly the imbalance in the East. If you play in the West, you have a 57 percent chance to make the playoffs as opposed to a 50 percent chance in the East.
Some say that Detroit or Columbus should stay in the West, but Wild player rep Zenon Konopka said, "Once you start tinkering, it brings a lot more variables into the equation. It could send a chain of reaction that blows up the whole thing."
This is not a collective bargaining agreement issue. The league doesn't have to make this decision in concert with the union. It's doing so as a courtesy, but the league frankly doesn't care when New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk says, "I don't think it makes any sense to change it."
"The bottom line is we have 30 teams," Leipold said. "You have four divisions. There are going to be some inequities, as minor as they might be. There is no perfect system. I mean, right now it's terribly imperfect and now we have something that will address the issues of probably 26 of the 30 teams.
"The issue of the playoffs, it's just marginally, mathematically different, and I think it's the best we can do."
RUSSO'S SHORT TAKES
In what would have been a colossal mistake by a franchise trying to build its barren prospect cupboard, the Calgary Flames should consider themselves lucky the Colorado Avalanche matched their offer sheet to restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly.
If the Avs hadn't, the Flames would have had to give up a first- and third-round pick as compensation and would have wound up losing the player -- because O'Reilly would not have been able to play for Calgary without going on waivers since he played two games in Europe while holding out.
Next time Colorado's in Calgary, General Manager Jay Feaster and staff should probably pick up Avs GM Greg Sherman and staff's dinner bill.
Some big rips
Carolina's Alex Semin played his former team, the Caps, last week, and former teammate Troy Brouwer scorched him, saying, "Some nights you didn't even know if he was going to come to the rink. It's tough to play alongside guys like those because you don't know what you're going to get out of them."
That was still nothing compared to what Mike Milbury did to Alex Ovechkin. The NBC Sports Network analyst was absolutely unremitting by showing umpteen examples of Ovechkin's lazy play against Philadelphia.
"I don't listen to nobody right now, so they can talk whatever they want," Ovechkin said.
WILD'S WEEK AHEAD
Sunday: vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Tuesday: at Chicago, 7:30 p.m. (FSN)
Saturday: at Nashville, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch:
Patrick Kane, Chicago
The Chicago Blackhawks' 2007 first overall pick who once upon a time made his NHL debut at Xcel Energy Center is tied for seventh in the NHL in scoring with 24 points.
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|Oklahoma City||7:00 PM|
|LA Clippers||8:00 PM|
|Arizona||1||2nd Prd 3:44|
|Los Angeles||6:00 PM|
|Coll of Charleston||68||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||77||FINAL|
|Loyola-Maryland||55||2nd Half 9:30|
|Tenn Tech||51||2nd Half 2:53|
|Bethune-Cookman||36||2nd Half 15:17|
|Valparaiso||58||2nd Half 8:13|
|UAB||55||2nd Half 6:31|
|Idaho State||50||2nd Half 6:42|
|Evansville||49||2nd Half 7:17|
|Rutgers||52||2nd Half 10:26|
|Ball State||45||2nd Half 16:32|
|Southern U||11||1st Half 7:42|
|UNC-Wilmington||27||1st Half 5:47|
|Coastal Carolina||18||1st Half 4:14|
|Morgan State||2||1st Half 13:32|
|William & Mary||39||1st Half 5:30|
|North Carolina||19||1st Half 9:02|
|Coppin State||16||1st Half 15:48|
|Ole Miss||30||1st Half 4:05|
|Wichita State||21||1st Half 4:31|
|Loyola Marymount||20||1st Half 3:11|
|Winthrop||26||1st Half 4:40|
|George Washington||12||1st Half 7:03|
|Bryant||23||1st Half 6:00|
|Long Island||25||1st Half 6:21|
|Fair-Dickinson||20||1st Half 3:45|
|Massachusetts||18||1st Half 5:29|
|Georgia||16||1st Half 3:33|
|Central Conn St||25||1st Half 0:51|
|SIU Edwardsville||4||1st Half 9:25|
|Ohio||2||1st Half 16:21|
|Eastern Ky||3||1st Half 19:02|
|Incarnate Word||4||1st Half 15:12|
|Vanderbilt||0||1st Half 15:25|
|South Alabama||4:00 PM|
|Western Carolina||4:00 PM|
|Jackson State||4:30 PM|
|Miss Valley St|
|Houston Baptist||4:30 PM|
|Sam Houston St|
|South Dakota St|
|Oral Roberts||4:30 PM|
|Fresno State||5:00 PM|
|Ark-Pine Bluff||5:00 PM|
|Alabama A&M||5:00 PM|
|NC A&T||5:00 PM|
|Delaware State||5:00 PM|
|Western Ky||5:00 PM|
|George Mason||6:00 PM|
|NC Central||6:00 PM|
|East Tenn St|
|Saint Peters||6:00 PM|
|Abilene Christian||6:00 PM|
|Char Southern||6:00 PM|
|Long Beach State|
|New Orleans||6:00 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||6:00 PM|
|La Salle||6:00 PM|
|TX A&M-CC||6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin|
|Northern Ky||6:00 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast|
|USC Upstate||6:00 PM|
|Ark-Little Rock||6:30 PM|
|SE Missouri St||7:00 PM|
|UT Martin||7:00 PM|
|San Jose St||7:00 PM|
|San Francisco||7:00 PM|
|Utah State||7:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Northwestern St||7:00 PM|
|Southern Ill||7:05 PM|
|Jacksonville St||7:30 PM|
|Alabama State||7:30 PM|
|Santa Clara||8:00 PM|
|TX-Pan American||8:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|Northern Ariz||8:00 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||8:00 PM|
|Weber State||8:00 PM|
|Chicago State||8:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara||9:00 PM|
|Air Force||9:00 PM|
|Cal Poly||9:00 PM|
|Montana State||9:05 PM|
|Utah Valley U|
|Mount St Marys||64||FINAL|
|Central Conn St||83||FINAL|
|East Tenn St||48|
|St Marys-CA||48||2nd Half 1:54|
|Nebraska Omaha||43||2nd Half 4:34|
|Houston Baptist||46||2nd Half 12:16|
|Sam Houston St||38|
|Mercer||59||2nd Half 0:15|
|No Dakota State||46||2nd Half 4:17|
|South Dakota St||76|
|Oral Roberts||53||2nd Half 5:51|
|Southern Miss||49||2nd Half 5:21|
|TX-San Antonio||49||2nd Half 6:02|
|East Carolina||47||2nd Half 5:17|
|South Florida||53||2nd Half 2:50|
|New Mexico St||56||2nd Half 11:41|
|Utah Valley U||43||2nd Half 3:12|
|Jackson State||52||2nd Half 7:49|
|Miss Valley St||54|
|Louisiana||53||2nd Half 2:37|
|South Alabama||37||2nd Half 5:29|
|Saint Louis||67||2nd Half 3:20|
|Cleveland State||61||2nd Half 3:13|
|Grand Canyon||70||2nd Half 4:00|
|Washington St||39||2nd Half 20:00|
|Ark-Pine Bluff||3:00 PM|
|Kansas State||16||1st Half 7:56|
|UNLV||24||1st Half 5:26|
|UCF||19||1st Half 4:59|
|UNC Greensboro||26||1st Half 3:29|
|Delaware State||21||1st Half 9:36|
|San Diego State||28||1st Half 1:33|
|Sacramento St||36||1st Half 6:23|
|Hampton||34||1st Half 3:44|
|NC A&T||21||1st Half 5:18|
|Alabama A&M||12||1st Half 10:48|
|Toledo||16||1st Half 4:57|
|Southern U||5||1st Half 12:00|
|Marist||25||1st Half 4:11|
|Bucknell||20||1st Half 4:47|
|North Dakota||25||1st Half 2:28|
|Ark-Little Rock||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Colorado State||4:00 PM|
|New Mexico||4:00 PM|
|San Jose St|
|UC Davis||4:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|San Diego||4:00 PM|
|New Orleans||4:00 PM|
|TX A&M-CC||4:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin|
|Old Dominion||4:00 PM|
|Tenn Tech||4:00 PM|
|Eastern Washington||4:00 PM|
|(7) Oregon State|
|IUPU-Ft Wayne||4:30 PM|
|Abilene Christian||4:30 PM|
|Northwestern St||4:30 PM|
|SE Missouri St||4:30 PM|
|Portland State||5:00 PM|
|Northern Colorado||5:00 PM|
|(19) Princeton||5:00 PM|
|UT Martin||5:00 PM|
|Alabama State||5:30 PM|
|Jacksonville St||5:30 PM|
|Oklahoma St||6:00 PM|
|La Salle||6:00 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||6:00 PM|
|Southern Utah||7:00 PM|
|Green Bay||7:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton||9:00 PM|
|Long Beach St|
Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?