Most of the teams in the Southeast Division have long been speculated about in regards to relocation and/or contraction. Those who aren't fans of those teams take it as a matter of course; it's "obvious" that teams don't belong in the American South. The critics may say they're traditionalists and that hockey teams shouldn't be located in warm climates - though, everyone seems perfectly okay with the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and the Anaheim Ducks all being in places where it doesn't snow.
The other side of that lovely double-standard are the teams in colder climates that are more likely to be moved, but are being ignored as potential candidates for relocation. The New York Islanders are an obvious choice, and perhaps the New Jersey Devils. But the Ottawa Senators have also struggled at the gate, even when they're playing well, and the Detroit Red Wings are located in a city that's extremely economically depressed, so they're having problems selling tickets as well. Although, somehow, no one talks about them very much - except for the Islanders, of course.
The real problem, however, isn't so much selling tickets as it is marketing - and television contracts. The NFL, for instance, has such a sweet TV deal that they could probably still make money if every team played in an empty stadium all season. The NHL, however, is extremely dependent upon selling tickets. And, as is the case with most sports, no one but die hard fans want to pay good money to go watch a perennially losing team.
Does this mean that everyone struggling should move? Of course not. But the perspective of a fan of a team that's been the focus of relocation rumors is far different than one whose team has been successful and productive for decades.
I deliberately asked this very uncomfortable question of our writers to see what they have to say. Not just because it's often a topic of discussion around the league, but also because it's something that the fans of most so-called "Sun Belt" teams just don't like to talk about since it hits a little too close to home for many. No one wants to discuss the possibility of a team moving or leaving when that team could be their own at some point.
(Not that I think the Lightning will actually move, but the team certainly has been the center of some relocation rumors, hasn't it?)
So the question of the week is this: If you could contract or move NHL teams that are struggling financially around to your satisfaction, who would you contract or move, and to where?
Clark Brooks - Staff Writer / Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness
I would only ever consider contraction as an absolute last resort. A sports league that starts contracting franchises is like that neighborhood restaurant that's "closed for re-modeling": not long for this world.
So if I then have to figure out what to do with Phoenix and New Jersey, my preference is to find a good owner and make it work in Phoenix, because I think the market could work. Not so much in New Jersey though.
If that isn't part of the equation and I have to move both, then option A is Kansas City (a no-brainer due to the arena sitting there waiting for a tenant). Option B is Seattle, since there's at least talk about getting an arena. After that, I'm scrambling and looking at places like Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Houston, maybe even (gasp) Atlanta.
Clare Austin - Staff Writer / Raw Charge
I feel very uncomfortable taking other fans' teams away from them, even hypothetically. Having nearly lost the Preds only 4 years ago, I know what that feels like. It feel wrong for me to even speculate.
I would move Phoenix to Seattle.
Now I'm not entirely sure if Seattle can support another sports team but coming from someone living in Vancouver, Seattle would be great for road trips and a rivalry between the fanbases. The Whitecaps are only a year into being with the MLS but the games against the Seattle Sounders were awesome and I think a similar effect would occur in between NHL teams as well.
John Fontana - Managing Editor / Raw Charge
I don't like spreading bad blood through discussions like this, and it's even worse when the topic of contraction is involved. That being said, as a fan and an observer, there are three teams I'd consider relocating: The New York Islanders, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Winnipeg Jets.
When I label the Islanders as a team I'd relocate that is NOT trying to get on fans and turnout, and certainly not the market... The Isles, however, are handcuffed by being in a suburban arena in a suburban part of New York State that doesn't want to further build out. Relocating the team won't solve the issue of horrible management decisions by Charles Wang and Co but on the issue of venue and having to compete in a hockey-satured market. They would be etter off in a more urban location.
The Coyotes are obvious - I don't think anyone has to dwell on the reasoning. The process has dragged out so long, it's time to cut the cord.
As for Winnipeg - the former Thrashers franchise relocated without the drawn out process you are seeing in Phoenix, and the relocation was from a large metro area to a rural praries town without the economic clout that can sustain a team after the novelty wears off. The Thrashers never should have been allowed to relocate to Winnipeg, but the NHL Board of Governors took the path of least resistence and decided to kick the problem of the franchise down the road instead of having a drawn out and deliberate process of finding a new host city for the team.
Matt Amos - Staff Writer / Don't Trade Vinny
If I could have it my way, and money and politics were no issue, the first thing I'd do is return the Coyotes to Winnipeg, move the current Jets to Colorado, and move the Avalanche back to Quebec. Old school is the best school.
If you missed it, check out last week's question, What qualities would you like to see in our next commissioner?