The speculation that various Canadian venues in Ontario would be chosen if the Preds were to leave Music City doesn't ask the right question: If the Preds were moved to Kitchener, Brantford, Hamilton, or even The Soo or Sudbury - the real question is,what conference would they be in?
Would they automatically become an Eastern Conference team with such a move? And who gets bumped to the West? Plus, if there is an opening in the East, it should rightfully go to Detroit.
As a long time Wings fan, the nonsense of Detroit in the Western Conference absolutely stinks because Detroit is in the Eastern Time Zone. It is pretty hard for folks that work to stay up and watch west coast games that don't start till after 10 PM. This is one contributing factor for empty seats at the Joe for the playoffs - pretty hard for fans to develop high intensity when they can't get involved in watching away games because of extreme time zone differential (Although the more likely explanation is the Wings are now having to really compete for finite fan attendance dollars with the current American League Champion Tigers and Pistons playoffs. And it certainly didn't help that on more than one hockey playoff date all three teams were not only playing at home - but at the same time).
Be that as it may, by being in the Western Conference Detroit is, in essence, forced to literally subsidize certain expansion teams by showing up and helping them sell plenty of available tickets to Wings fans in their area. Tickets that these expansion teams would not sell unless playing the Wings. Even the highly touted "casual viewer" has heard of the Wings and might therefore be induced to come out to a game.
While having teams like the Wings playing in an expansion town might be good for spreading the gospel of hockey - certainly good for the speculative investors in marginal expansion teams - the Wings have been conscripted by the NHL to pay for this experiment in extreme travel expenses that simply do not have to be borne by Eastern Conference teams. Of course, by being in the Western Conference the Wings also play some really top teams - as the quality of the last playoff series just demonstrated. Nevertheless, playing three times zones away does not contribute to developing any natural rivalries.
In the current division set-up Detroit only plays one Eastern Time Zone team, Columbus. No matter how many times we are forced to play them, that mandated "rivalry" simply is never going to attain the mythical proportions of the college football Michigan/Ohio State contests. Many of us in the loyal Wings fan base resent the fact that, other than the Blackhawks, we never get to play any of our true, long-standing, exciting Original Six rivals on a regular basis. For example, this year the Wings only played the Leafs once. What the NHL fails to appreciate is that Wings/Leafs and Wings/Montreal are REAL RIVALRIES that have value added as being long established. Even the players couldn't get extra tickets for family and friends when the Leafs came to the Joe. This is what people want to see. This is what people will pay to see.
So, the Preds stay, the Preds go - Somewhere. Somewhere in Ontario, or Winnipeg, or maybe even Kansas City. But, before that happens, how about getting some equitable divisions established so that fans can reasonably be expected to watch both the home and away games of their favorite team?