May 16, 2011 :: 11:23pm ET (Updated: 11:51pm ET) Thrashers move could mean more
If the Thrashers move to Winnipeg, the NHL could see a few teams shift
TORONTO, ON -- Phoenix is so passé!
Moving? Bah, we'll worry about that a year from now. Until then, the
sexy relocation banter around the NHL surrounds the Atlanta Thrashers.
And for good reason.
It doesn't look like the NHL will be able to put up as big as a fight
to keep the Thrashers in the ATL, and you can't really blame them
(sorry, Thrashers fans). In Phoenix, there was local government
support and a few interested parties willing to purchase the team and
keep them in Arizona.
That's just not the case in Atlanta, as
the local government won't chip in and there haven't been any parties
willing to step up, open their wallets, and keep the Thrashers from
How can you fault the NHL, given the scenario? From a business
standpoint, they're stuck. And believe me, the thought of relocating
an NHL franchise makes NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sick to his
stomach. But, as of now, unless someone steps up large, the League
might not be able to save this club from moving.
And for those asking "what happened to that group you said wanted to
buy the team and keep them in Atlanta?" Well, that was a realistic
option, but as discussions began to include the NBA's Atlanta Hawks
and Philips Arena, which Atlanta Spirit, LLC operates, the price kept
going up and became "unrealistic," according to the person leading
So, as Atlanta Spirit works towards finalizing a contract with True
North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., believed to be worth around $165
million to $175 million -- $60 million of which goes to the NHL in
relocation fees -- let's assume a deal gets done and there's NHL
hockey in Winnipeg when they drop the puck on the 2011-12 campaign.
What happens then? Well, the NHL is working on two schedules for next
season so they can be prepared for either scenario. If Winnipeg gets
its team, they'll move to the Western Conference, leaving a void in
the East and causing the NHL to eventually finalize a plan to realign
some of the divisions.
Now, I say "eventually" because such a move might not come into play
right away. According to a league executive, the NHL could wait at
least one full season before it decides to move other teams around.
Why? Well, in the event the Coyotes dig themselves a deeper hole and
are forced to relocate (Quebec City? Kansas City?), the NHL would have
to go through that process for a second-straight year, which it may
want to avoid.
But, we'll cross that bridge when the time comes.
For now, should the Thrashers move to Winnipeg, becoming the Manitoba
Moose, according to the CBC's Elliotte Friedman, a team from the
Central would shift to the Southeast.
And no, I'm not talking about the
Nashville Predators, though geographically that makes sense.
Granted, things could change, but it appears the Columbus Blue Jackets
are poised to make their way down to the Southeast, which is believed
to be a temporary solution (though likely long-term, providing the
Coyotes or the Islanders another team don't move).
As much as the Detroit Red Wings want to head back to the Eastern
Conference, that doesn't look like an option, right now, or in the
With the Blue Jackets heading to the Southeast, the
Jets/Moose/whatever would actually jump into the Northwest, moving the
Minnesota Wild to the Central.
It's not set in stone just yet, and there's still a timing concern
from True North and Entertainment, but if all the right pieces fall
into place, we could see this sequence of events take place as early
as June, though likely to be announced following the Stanley Cup
Why the Blue Jackets?
Well, for starters (actually, this is the main reason), the NHL has a
lot invested in the Red Wings and its West Coast counterparts. Plain
and simple, they draw. Fans in Dallas, Colorado, Anaheim and San Jose
want to see the Wings in action. Detroit won't shift to the East for a
few years, at least.
As for the Predators... well, yeah, fans like seeing Chicago and
Detroit come to town, but they'd definitely come out to see Sidney
Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, too.
To be frank, with the Predators on the up-and-up (higher attendance,
more local and corporate support, and a lot of buzz finally
surrounding the club), the Blue Jackets need it more. They had a
horrible year in the seats, they're losing a boat load of cash, and
while the fans are in the city (I can definitely attest to how wild
and loud Blue Jackets fans can get), having only made the playoffs
once in franchise history has hurt them.
Moving Columbus to the East allows for new intrigue. More Ovechkin (6
times a year!). More Crosby (4 times!). More Montreal Canadiens,
Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. The Blue
Jackets will try to win over the fan base by sticking to a higher
payroll this summer, but a move to the East creates new marketing
initiatives that could help point the franchise in the right
David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine.
His columns appear every weekly on TFP.