Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Point/Counterpoint: Expansion is the route of all evil

Thanks to Fabio Bura
Welcome to another semi-regular edition of Point/Counterpoint, featuring the notorious crank who runs this hockey department and the inestimable Nick D. from Flyerdelphia
This time around, we lock horns over the thorny issue of expansion, which always seems to be right around the corner when the NHL tries to unbalance divisions and conferences during periodic realignment.
Nick, with Point: Honestly, expansion wouldn't be necessary if the conferences were evened up from the onset. Realignment was necessary, I think we all know that, but it was obviously done with adding two teams in mind. 
Nothing more than a money grab if you ask me. Making money isn't a problem, after all this is the United States of America, but if it's at the expense of the product then it is and adding teams will absolutely force the quality of the product to take a dive, more than the New York Rangers do under Alain Vigneault. The NHL already has too many teams and not enough high-end talent, if anything, it's time to clean up this mess a little bit and trim the fat.
Bob, with Counterpoint: Hold on a minute there, Stosh. Two of the last three times the league decided to shuffle its geographic designations (1993 and 2013) to create unbalanced conferences, expansion wasn't immediately on the horizon despite the usual rumors. In fact, the unexpected movement of the Nordiques to Denver in 1995 actually created a balance, from 14 in the East and 12 in the West to 13 and 13, so I don't buy that the supposed oncoming largesse will automatically be used to fill the two "open slots" in the Central and Pacific. 
Aside from that, why wouldn't the NHL need more marketable stars in more marketable locations? It's been beaten like a dead horse how the league lacks the regional and global marketing push like the NFL and NBA, so why not spread the good word to cities which can handle a franchise? Remember, it's no longer about hockey acumen and ticket-based support, it's about the corporate structure, ownership and available arena space. Quebec is already constructing a replacement for Le Colisee, and it ain't because they need to draw a larger audience for Justin Bieber. 

Also, do you believe the current alignments are set in stone? Not hardly. I'd be surprised if it lasts three years before the complaints pour in, suggestions are made and one or two teams are uprooted from one place to another, making the current geographic designations moot. Florida has one foot out the door, Kansas City is just waiting for its chance and Seattle is teasing the out of any potential suitor.

Nick: Maybe relocation would be a better alternative to expansion. Having two teams in Florida seems like overkill, there are four teams within an hour and a half of each other in the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and our beloved Philadelphia Flyers. It's hard for the Devils to draw because of the direct contention with clubs that are in close proximity to them. Exploring relocation makes more sense than just adding teams. If the NHL wants to put a team in Seattle or Portland or Quebec or Hamilton or wherever else the scent of money emanates, instead of having an expansion draft, why not just up and move a team like the Islanders or the Devils or the Panthers? 
Bob: Yes, the NHL's Sun Belt experiment is listing like an Italian cruise ship to the side of failure, and there are clumps of franchises located around the major cities in the Northeast, but why should that stop the inevitable march of progress? Imagine this, a boot stamping on a human face, forever. That's how Gary Bettman, the rest of the league braintrust and the 30 members of the Board of Governors will maneuver given the chance. Time to cave in and get on board. Wipe out any failures with a fresh infusion of cash every x number of years. We've already seen through the cancelled 2004-05 season that the league will never contract any failing teams in the interest of true capitalism,  but in the spirit of true capitalism, will think nothing of collecting $50 million per each entry.
Besides, if it weren't for hockey's version of Manifest Destiny, we'd never have teams like Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Carolina -- all worthy in their times of triumph -- engraved on the Stanley Cup. Just hope they don't take a wrong turn in Albuquerque.

Nick: Bob, you ignorant slut. 
Why wouldn't the NHL want to expand? More teams means more markets and likely more revenue... But doesn't John Scott play in the NHL? What about Jay Rosehill? Do we really need to see guys like Chris Neil play more shifts? This is the best sport in the world we're talking about here, do we want a more watered down product than we're already getting? If you pay to see a game, you want to see the best players play and not see a team dress more lower-tier talent just so more the conferences are balanced. North America needs another National Hockey League team like I need another hole in my head.
Bob: Whores (NHL) do it for money. Sluts (me) do it for the love of the game. So, remember I told you that. 32 teams by 2016. Excuse me while I go make the buttons. 
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