September 24, 2009

Playing the NHL realignment game

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

It seems that it’s becoming a yearly tradition for ESPN to try to figure out a way to help the NHL through expansion, contraction, moving teams and realignment. While the struggling ice hockey league has just started their pre-season now, why shouldn’t ESPN give their columnists a short at fictionally turning the league around and back into the heavy hitter it was in the hey-day of 1994.

But, the thing is, every one of their plans was severely flawed in one way or another. One plan had a vigorous relocation of teams into Europe, forming a five team division overseas. Another had further expansion (to 40 teams!) that clearly pays no mind to the already deluded talent pool. The others either called for a team in Saskatoon (Canada’s 22nd most populated city) or making the Coyotes a vagabond team. Well, here’s my solution…

First and foremost, Jim Balsillie gets his team and moves the Coyotes from Phoenix to Hamilton, Ontario. This might’ve been the simplest move but was vastly overlooked by ESPN’s experts.

Next, the experts also overlooked the fantastic possibility of putting a team in Kansas City, who already have an arena ready to go. Why not setup a nice rivalry with St. Louis? The Islanders are a team in need of a new home and new identity so that seems simple.

Here’s where the not so obvious moves happen: I don’t feel that Miami, Atlanta and Nashville are all sustainable markets and need to be moved. Would anyone even miss them?

Seattle would get one team to create an instant rivalry with the Canucks while cultivated an area devastated by the loss of the NBA’s SuperSonics.

Quebec City is the next option for a relocated team as there are no other suitable Canadian destinations. You can try to sell me on Winnipeg all you want, but could imagine them trying to woo a big name free agent? Quebec could be a great destination for French-Canadian players.

Some league has to put a team in Las Vegas and it will finally happen. CSI producer Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to move a team there so there is obviously some footing. The NHL should go all-in on this move.

Finally, just to keep the conferences even and also to change an error that has long pissed me off, Detroit will be moved to the Eastern Conference.

Also, we’re going back to the Wales and Campbell Conferences. You know, when the league had character.

Who’s out:
Phoenix, New York Islanders, Florida, Atlanta, Nashville

Who’s in:
Hamilton, Kansas City, Seattle, Quebec City, Las Vegas

Wales Conference
Messier division: Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas.
Hull division: Chicago, Columbus, Kansas City, Minnesota, St. Louis.
Gretzky division: Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver.

Campbell Conference
Lafleur division: Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto.
Howe division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, NY Rangers, New Jersey.
Lemeiux division: Carolina, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington.


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  3. I think your plan breaks up too many good rivalries: Chicago-Detroit, Philly-NJ, Boston-Montreal. The divisions need more thought and maybe a move back to two divisions as opposed to three. Also, I like the idea of Quebec City, Hamilton, and Seattle, this game doesn’t work in the southern US or most of the Southwest (Dallas breaks this rule). I wouldn’t push for KC or Vegas; replace one with Winnepeg and keep the Islanders in Nassau.

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