So prior to writing this piece, I’ve been doing some online shopping. I’m not a big fan of shopping when I have to stand around and go store to store and sort through things to find what I want. But I’m pretty good at doing it from the comfort of my living room online. My big thing right now is I like to find retro sports t-shirts and team them with a hat from that same city. So for example I’m rocking a Mariners hat right now, while wearing my Seattle Supersonics 1979 NBA champions t-shirt. NHL.com has some pretty deadly retro t’s, so I’m sorting through every team. I go through the Yotes merchandise. I’m thinking “how deadly would a faded purple or green t-shirt with a faded original Coyotes symbol and Roenick or Khabibulin on the back look?!” Not only do they not have an item like that, they don’t have ANY item’s with the old Coyotes symbol. Nor do they have ANY item’s celebrating anything from the past. Guys, I’m not in marketing. But last time I checked, keeping your merchandise trendy is a way to market your product. Just a suggestion.
Of course I bring this story up because the Coyotes SHOULD be on the move. But they aren’t, and won’t be, and for some reason Garry Bettman continues to force them into our lives.
Regardless of the mess that is known as the Arizona Coyotes, who can’t even get a jersey change right, it is the right time for the NHL to expand. As I talked about a few weeks ago, hockey is booming everywhere. Canada has never pumped out such high end talent, major talent is starting to emerge from non traditional markets like Arizona (Auston Matthews) and Texas (Max Gildon), the Czech Republic is on the comeback trail after some down years, Sweden remains a power, Finland is always consistent, Switzerland is improving every year, Austria, Latvia, Germany, they’re coming from more places than ever before. And the 30 teams in the league are on as level of playing field as they’ve been. It’ll have been 17 years since expansion once we see it again, and 32 teams just works better than 30 does. 16 teams to each conference, half the league misses the playoffs, 8 teams in each division, it just rounds everything out.
Now you may remember what expansion is like. It’s a lot of bad hockey for a lot of years for these teams. Even when they do emerge early, it’s only by playing an optically awful style. 3 years into their existence, both the Panthers and Wild went on deep playoff runs. But nobody was pulling for them. They were AWFUL to watch. And they were 1 off’s. Neither team remained as a factor. So the argument might be made that expansion teams will lead to 5 years or so of really bad hockey. This WAS true. But this is the cap era, and teams have good players they want to shed.
Who are teams going to make available in the expansion draft? Are they going to expose 2 or 3 younger roster guys, or are they going to expose 2 or 3 of their worst contracts? It’s the latter.
So think of some of the bad contracts with term right now. They’ll likely be taken off the books by expansion teams who’ll have to get to the cap floor, I would assume anyway. Maybe they’ll be given 1 or 2 years grace at a lower floor.
Take Phil Kessl for example. I’ll never say Phil Kessel sucks, he just isn’t a player you build a team around and with the Pens such a top heavy team I would say there is a good chance Kessel is a guy who is made available at that time. If the Pens can’t move him, they can just expose him in the expansion draft and he’ll likely be taken.
Here is another one. Some are wondering why the hell Tim Murray would give Ryan O’Reilly so much term on his extension when he has Eichel, Reinhart and Girgensons as an impressive 1, 2, 3 down the middle for the future. Well if he can’t move the O’Reilly deal after 3 seasons, he can make him available in the expansion draft. That easily could have played into Murray giving him such a huge deal. Of course another thing that played into Murray giving him that deal is not being a good GM.
Jason Pominville will have 2 years left at a 5.6 million dollar cap hit, so he’ll likely be made available. Scott Hartnell, David Clarkson, Andrew McDonald, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Travis Zajac, Dion Phaneuf, Matt Niskanen, there will be SO MANY big contract players on these new expansion teams. Which is good, because it’ll make them instantly relevant.
As for who the 2 cities will be, well we all know Vegas is going to be one of them. I can’t see Vegas succeeding but they seem hell bent on putting a team there. The second city SHOULD be Quebec City, but if Bettman has his way it won’t be. Seattle? Much more likely. Kansas City? Much more likely. Portland? Much more likely.
So why is this? Well frankly it is as ridiculous of a reason as can be imagined, but the commissioner wants the 2 teams to be in the West so that they won’t have to take a team from the East and put them back in the West like Columbus or Detroit. I can’t roll my eyes hard enough at this notion. But it sure sounds like that’s the mindset of the league. Who cares how profitable Quebec City will be hey boys?! Just as long as you don’t make Mike Ilitch cranky by moving his Red Wings back to the Western Conference. And this isn’t me trying to be cute, this is ACTUALLY WHAT THEY’RE THINKING!
It’s always made much more sense to me that they relocate 2 teams (if not more) and give 2 expansion teams to the Canadian markets (Quebec City and Southern Ontario whether that is Hamilton or another team in Toronto). The thinking being that it’ll be much easier to draw fans in these none traditional markets like a Vegas or Seattle with teams who are competitive. If you give them expansion teams, you’re starting off way behind the 8 ball. Even with good players likely headed to these teams, it is still a brand new situation for all involved and will likely take them a year or 2 to challenge for a playoff spot.
In Quebec City it would be just like Winnipeg. They’ll be so pumped to have a team back in the city, they won’t be that worried about wins and loses for a year or 2. In Toronto, it would be the PERFECT time to bring in another team with the Leafs admittedly going through a pretty big rebuild. If you get an expansion team in there by 17-18, they may still be able to compete with the Leafs. And with a ton of pissed off and under served Leaf fans craving something new, they’ll sellout while the organization gets it’s feet under them.
I guess at the end of the day it is good that they’re finally expanding. I mean, I’m all for the league going down to 24 teams, but that’ll never happen. Businesses of this magnitude are only ever going to look to grow their product, not downsize it. So 32 makes the most sense. Everyone expects Vegas to be one of the cities who gets a team. Let’s hope that it’s Quebec City who gets the other. But if your team is in cap trouble or has a gross contract that is unmovable, the expansion draft is coming in a few years so your problem could be solved. It’ll be extremely interesting to see what’ll shake down when (or if) the 2017 expansion draft rolls around.
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