WRITTEN BY SENSCHIRP READER- Pasky
We're officially in the dog days of summer.
Those of us so passionate about this sport have essentially run out of things to discuss till training camp opens. I figured to kill time I would take a stab at what I'd like to see the league do in regards to a 32 team league.
With the league switching to a 4 conference format, instead of a 6 division/2 conference one, it seems clear that an expansion is inevitable. The fact that this realignment was only singed off for 3 seasons seems like the biggest hint that this is again only temporary and that changes are planned. This is probably no coincident that the arenas being built in both Seattle and Quebec City are scheduled to be finished in 3 years time and lets face it, both these locations have been long rumored for either relocation or expansion.
So let's say that Quebec City and Seattle each get an expansion team. Obviously, Quebec City won't be playing in the Western Conference so someone has to move back to the West and I would put Columbus as the most likely candidate. So the divisions would look something like this:
Division 1: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver
Division 2: Chicago, Columbus, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St-Louis, Winnipeg
Division 3: Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Division 4: Boston, Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Now this obviously isn't perfect, especially when you look at the 2 conferences in the East. I highlighted the teams that will be affect from 4 more moves that the NHL should do.
- Move 1: Relocate Phoenix
This saga is not over. They do have new owners which is great, and they have their lease on an arena deal which again is good news for the team. But with a 5 year out clause as long as the money isn't coming in, which we can say it never has come in, I wouldn't be surprised to see this team relocate very soon. As far as likely candidates go, I think the best fit would be Portland. They have a suitable arena where the Trailblazers play, and it would be able to feed off of Seattle for a regional rivalry. Not too mention that the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL averaged the 4th highest attendance record for 2012-2013 behind only Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, and that gives a sort of track record for hockey working there. The only other viable option in the division would be Las Vegas. And personally, I think that experiment would fail miserably. If you ask people what they would like to do while visiting Las Vegas, I'm sure going to a hockey game would be below the priority list.
- Move 2: Relocate Columbus
This decision is based on a team that has under performed since it came into the league, and that has been at the bottom of Forbes list for quite some time now. Plus, the league seems quite keen on arranging the new conferences based on timezones and being the only team in the Eastern timezone, it makes it an easy target. I would move the team to Kansas City. It's regionally close to St-Louis, not to mention it already has an empty arena suitable for the NHL. The Sprint Center has a capacity of 17 500 for hockey games, not too mention without an NBA team in town to avoid competition. As a plan B I think Milwaukee is another viable option. With talks of Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl wanting to build a new arena for the NBA, it may become another option.
- Move 3: Relocate Florida, Swap Boston/Tampa Bay
This one I had to think about for a while. Having teams fly from Canada to Florida for divisional games, while passing 8 other teams in the process, just doesn't seem logical. Of course we know that the league doesn't want to split up NY/NY/NJ/Philly/Pitts because of NBC and $$$ so Boston was the logical choice to move divisions. But Boston has such a great rivalry within it's current division, I just hate to see it go. So Florida Becomes the odd man out. They always lose money and hockey in the south just isn't the best option. And let's not forget the league likes to pump it's tires that no team that has won a Stanley Cup has ever been relocated, so that rules out Tampa, New Jersey and New York Islanders as the other options to move. And with the Islanders moving to Brooklyn, it should give it a bit of a boost in attendance and cash influx. So where does Florida go? They keep jamming down our throats that Toronto needs a second team and I can agree on that. But Markham is a better fit than Hamilton. Markham is closer to the north of Toronto so it should keep Buffalo happy, since that was a big issue with moving a team to Hamilton. If they don't want another team for us Sens fans to boo, then moving to Hartford wouldn't be out of the question. I'd like too see Halifax/St-John's area get an NHL team, but the league is focused on American markets, and they are quite small markets at that (i.e. population).
- Move 4: Rename ALL Conferences
There's nothing I hate more about this new realignment plan than the god awful names they came up with/recycled. We haven't talked about how boring Pacific and Central are as names because people are too busy with the fact that no one from the old Atlantic division plays in the new Atlantic conference, not too mention how stupid of a name Metropolitan sounds for a sports league. Do us all a favor and pay homage to the greats of years passed that played for teams in said conference. Gretzky is the greatest ever period and for what he did with Edmonton and Los Angeles, that division name is a no brainer. Same goes for Lemieux and the Penguins division. Gordie Howe deserves to be the name for Detriot's division, although with greats like Orr, Richard, Lafleur among others, there's a lot of good options out there. As for the other Western Conference, Bobby Hull is the biggest name I can think for his contributions with the Hawks, and to goal scoring. But if they want to borrow one of the other legends that i named earlier, I wouldn't object to that.
Gretzky Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Portland, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver
Hull Division: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Nashville, St-Louis, Winnipeg
Howe Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Markham, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto
Lemieux Divison: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
Of course this is just one fans opinion, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of your comments.
Thanks for reading!