All right. So in part one we talked about contraction. To help get our league back to an acceptable level of prominence we need to get a couple things out of the way.
1. Fire commissioner Gary Bettman. It was his idea to expand to all these failing cities, he headed the league during its season long lockout five years ago, and he's been in charge while the NBA has skyrocketed in popularity.
2. Get games back on ESPN. I'm not saying put all your chips in with them, but at least one game a week on ESPN2 would be wise. I think if the Versus Network will still pony up the dough to be the flagship home of hockey that's cool with me. "VS" treats the NHL like king and does a really good job presenting the product. It just doesn't have the notoriety ESPN does. "VS" is owned by Comcast and has been dropped from DirecTV all season. So millions of homes have to find the NHL Network to see games. That's not the easiest thing in the world to do if you're not a tech savvy person over the age of 35. If you get back on ESPN, they'll treat you with more respect and get your name on the sports landscape on a more regular basis.
So we've replaced Gary Bettman with someone, anyone. Let's just say Lou Nanne (work with me here people.) We're back on ESPN2 (Friday nights at first.) Now let's set are contraction/relocation plans into place. Here's what I would do.
Nashville, Florida, Atlanta, Phoenix, Columbus, and Tampa are all getting deconstructed somehow. It’s certainly easier said than done but this is just my dream list for teams to get the axe. The league buys out two of these teams (let’s say Florida and Nashville.)
The other four are going to move. My choices would be Winnipeg, Seattle, Quebec City, and Suburban Toronto.
I’m very leery about putting a team back in Winnipeg. Their new(er) arena that’s been built since the Jets moved to Phoenix holds just over 15,500 people. They have to have that building nearly full every night to stay alive. If they only have 85% capacity that’s roughly 13,000 in attendance. I’m betting that a Canadian city can get 15,000 in the building every night. I’m betting that in this day and age a Canadian city can. Quebec City is in the process of passing a bill to build a brand new state of the art facility. The arena was the only reason why the Quebec Nordiques left for Denver. As we’ve found out with the Wild you can’t put a price on losing a team.
Seattle is a no-brainer to me. Very progressive, Northwestern city (like Vancouver.) Seattle could use a team to fill the Super Sonics void.
Suburban Toronto- whether it be Vaughan, South Ontario’s Hamilton, or just a second team in Toronto itself this is going to happen in the real world this decade. Let’s set the wheels in motion right here.
Sorry to Saskatoon, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Portland, Cleveland, Hartford, Houston, and Gary, IN.
Let’s see how our conference’s and divisions shake up after our twists.
3. San Jose
5. Los Angeles
Great West Division (BURRRRRRR!)
Central Division (One less team to accommodate the travel to Texas)
2. St. Louis
1. New York Rangers
2. New York Islanders
3. New Jersey
Canadian (Not too shabby Eh?)
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Toronto Beavers
So that’s what I have for realignment in the league. I think it’s pretty fair. I especially like the idea of an All-Canadian division. Think of the rivalries and drama every season! I also like the thought of having Pittsburgh and Buffalo play in a division with the NYC metro area so the teams have to travel farther than 800 feet to play road games.
That’s all for today. A lot to take in I know. Tomorrow we tie up some loose ends that I especially need to think about a little more. Please feel free to comment below!