For many years, potential relocation scenarios for struggling teams have given writers like myself the chance to write speculative articles on where they might go, and dare I say, even think about certain teams being defunct all together. While the latter will never happen, tonight we have the news from the NHL (to be announced officially on Tuesday) that one of their failures in franchise placement is going to Canada, where more teams should be. The Atlanta Thrashers will be on their way to Winnipeg, Manitoba, the same exact city where the Jets struggled to draw fans (and income) from 1979 to 1996.
This is such a bittersweet moment. Part of me is joyous that Canada is getting another NHL team, because their fans actually know the difference between a blue line and a clothes line. However, of all the cities that could have supported a franchise, was Winnipeg really the most adequate? There is a reason why they failed once already. With Hamilton and Quebec seeming like better choices, being that one is near the major market of Toronto and the other is in a major province, the NHL had to choose a place that is not very appealing when it comes to free agency. There is zero marketability with this move, and despite the thousands of die-hard fans that I know exist in the area, if there were so many of them, why did it fail the first time around?
The Thrashers are not a team on the cusp of a winning season. Their defense may be solid, but their offense is in a funk. They have no superstar and their farm system does not bring any promising skill in the nearby future. What happens when they continue their losing seasons in Canada? At least Hamilton and Quebec are marketable areas. The people there are hockey crazy and the market for professional hockey is so enormous that a new team would not even dent the following of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens.
Well, as the saying goes, what’s done is done. The Thrashers are on their way to Winnipeg while the former relocated team to play there, the Phoenix Coyotes, might also be on the move again in years to come. With so many teams struggling to draw fans and make money, perhaps those two other Canadian cities are not out of the question. The Predators and Panthers should be the next to go, and the NHL will have to admit that their asinine idea of placing all those teams in the Sunbelt was just a bad idea.
Now the only two questions that remain are what will their name be, and what will division re-alignment look like. People have been speculating that the new team will just have to play in the southeast division for this season until the league can figure it out. That is ridiculous, because of travel. I don’t even want to think at what it will look like, because this is the NHL we are talking about. Somehow, some way, they will find a way to mess it up. My only guess would be moving the Columbus Blue Jackets east, but that could be complicating as well. As for the name, just call them the Jets. People love vintage and their logo and color scheme were awesome in my eyes.
This off-season, the first priority this team should have would be to lock up Teemu Selanne for one final season, should he desire to end his career where it began. It could be a very special gesture, and put some fans in the seats, because even though he is going to be 41, he will still find a way to net 20-30 goals. Either way, I still feel this organization will remain destined for failure—the NHL spit the bit on this one.