Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Not more expansion . . .

Well, it seems that teams interested in acquiring the Penguins sparked a new kind of interest: expansion. After all, if all these teams wanted Pittsburgh, surely they want an expansion team! Surely the team will thrive! Doesn't the NHL need 30 teams?

The theory on the street is that the league will add 2 teams to the Western conference, and move Detroit and Columbus east (the two teams are the only Eastern Time Zone teams in the Western Conference). The NHL would then have 4 Divisions of 8, with the top 4 teams making the playoffs in each division, and the first two rounds of the playoffs would be entirely in the division, just like in the 70s and 80s. Maybe we'll even see the return of traditional division names.

Here's the problem: Can this league support two more franchises? The NHL has gone through a massive effort to try to increase the room for skill and speed. Wouldn't 40 more marginal NHL players in the league dilute team speed even further? There aren't 40 Rico Fatas out there (i. e. marginal NHL players with blinding speed).

The real reason that existing teams like expansion is two-fold. 1. It brings more fans in as they discover a team in their home market. That's fine, but seriously, there are better ways to accomplish this. Does the greater LA Area really need 2 teams? The Ducks are struggling in attendance despite the fact that they have a point in EVERY game. Find an opportunity to move one of those teams somewhere instead of expanding. We can attempt to establish a new hockey market somewhere and see where else the NHL can thrive. We've had recent success moving into "weak markets" like Columbus and Minnesota, let's be a little more patient. The other reason existing teams like expansion teams is because these teams have to pay exorbitant fees to enter the league. To the sum of $3-$5 million per team for every club that enters. How does this money affect the salary cap? It would be new income for the league, but it would also increase the number of teams, which would mean the 54% of all revenue that the players get would be divided among more players. It would be interesting to see where the union stands on such an issue.

I like the concept of going to 4 divisions. I like the idea of divisional playoffs again. I don't like the idea of using expansion to get there, especially when expansion means the elimination of all interconference play. Once again, the East makes the west travel, while the east sits at home.

1 comment:

JP said...

While I can't stand the idea of further expansion, I love the intra-divisional playoff format.

People complain about the Caps' Southeast Division "rivals" and the League's attempt to create rivalries by forcing teams to play their divisional foes 347 times each per year (I think that's the number - not sure), but the only real way to create rivalries is through repeated playoff encounters.

The reason Caps fans hate the Pens, Flyers, Islanders and Rangers so much is the annual spring clashes, not the fact that they played so often in the regular season (to prove that point, I'd bet that if you polled all Caps fans on which of the former Patrick Division teams they hate the least, the Devils would win. Not coincidentally, the Devils were the former Patrick Division team the Caps faced the fewest times in the playoffs).

But the solution isn't more teams - it's to go to two divisions per Conference with the teams you have now and have the first two rounds be intra-divisional.

My 2 cents.