Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

Is Another Expansion Boom Looming?

Posted: April 29, 2013 in CFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

The National Basketball Association relocation committee has recommended against the Sacramento Kings relocating to Seattle to revive the SuperSonics on Monday.  There is now speculation that Seattle may be granted an expansion franchise for the 2014-15 season.  The NBA isn’t the only league looking at expansion currently, as the Canadian Football League has made expansion to Ottawa official, Major League Soccer is close to granting an expansion club to New York, the National Football League aims to increase its global image, and the National Hockey League has been rumored to be looking at two expansion franchises.

Canadian Football League – The CFL has twice had to leave the Canadian national capital when the Rough Riders folded and their replacement, the Renegades followed suit in 2006.  By 2008, the city was granted another expansion team to begin play in 2010, which was continually pushed back and currently is set at 2014.  The team is expected to announce that it will be called to Ottawa RedBlacks on June 8th.  The league will likely be content with an uneven number of teams, but should it eventually look for a tenth franchise, Moncton or Halifax would seem to be the front-runners for a team to represent all of Atlantic Canada.

Major League Baseball – The MLB has no plans at expansion, and there are not that many markets that would seem ready to support a new MLB franchise for the time being.  Though it should be noted that MLB has experimented in the past with the Expos de Montréal playing games in San Juan, Puerto Rico before the franchise ultimately relocated to Washington, D.C. as the Washington Nationals.  Furthermore, the 1998 expansion that brought the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks into the league featured three strong candidates in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, suggesting that the league may be more than willing to extend its bounds outside of the United States and Canada.

Major League Soccer – It won’t be the Cosmos, but Major League Soccer is coming into New York City with a team to rival the New York Red Bulls, a team that currently plays in Harrison, New Jersey.  The 25,000 seat stadium will be located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and share parking with Citi Field, home of the MLB’s New York Mets.  An ownerships group, stadium deal, and prospective owner should all be finalized within four-to-six weeks.

National Basketball Association – With Seattle the obvious expansion candidate for the 2014-15 season, should an expansion take place, the only remaining question is whether the league would stay at 31 teams or go to an even 32.  Louisville and Kansas City both have NBA-quality arenas done, and neither subjects the league to competition from the NHL.  Other markets that could house future franchises include St. Louis and Vancouver, a city that lost the Grizzlies to Memphis in 2001.

National Football League – The NFL is the best attended sports league in the world, but lacking even a team in Canada, the league has remained strictly within the United States apart from exhibitions in Toronto, Mexico City, and London.  The league could eventually see teams in all three of those markets, and with a “struggling” NFL franchise being relatively prosperous to teams in other leagues, the league has no extraordinary need for relocation (except maybe Jacksonville).  Besides international markets, the league needs to look at the second largest market in the United States: Los Angeles, a city that (with its suburb Anaheim) has two teams in the MLB, two in the NBA, two in the MLS, and two in the NHL.

National Hockey League – Amid the league’s third work stoppage of the Gary Bettman era, reports began to circulate that the league would be awarding two expansion franchises in the near future, most likely to Quebec and suburban Toronto.  With the NBA to Seattle efforts, Seattle ended up in the mix as well, but unless the NBA expands there, there will be no stadium to house an NHL team.  Portland and Kansas City both have made efforts to lure the Phoenix Coyotes from the desert.

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After an ESPN report that long-time Calgary Flames right winger and captain Jarome Iginla was traded to the Boston Bruins overnight, Iginla was instead traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and a first round draft pick.  The Penguins, of course, are the hottest team in the league right now, having won thirteen straight games and having recently acquired Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow and San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.

Yet they are simply still not the best team in the league, as a pair of juggernauts from the Western Conference match up at least as well.  The Anaheim Ducks would match up well with the Penguins in a potential Stanley Cup matchup, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still the best team in the league without question, despite having lost four of their last eight after starting the season with a record streak of twenty-four games without falling in regulation or overtime, with all three losses having come in shootouts as the team started 21-0-3.

Adding Iginla bolsters the by-far best offense in the NHL, whose 117 goals are nine ahead of the next highest team.  The Penguins problem is that they are just tenth in goals allowed (with the lowest total being ranked first), despite playing in a division that includes three of the seven worst offensive teams in the league.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks have depth that rivals that of their 2009-10 team that ended the league’s longest championship drought that dated back to 1960-1961.  While their goaltending has been inconsistent as of late, possibly taking Corey Crawford out of contention for the Vezina, backup Ray Emery has started the season with a record 12-0-0 start.  The defense is lights out, having given up a league-low 71 goals, and the offense ranks second in the league, as previously mentioned.  All three defensive lines are capable of taking on any team in the league’s top line, and their offense has been described as having a “first line and three second lines”.  Jonathan Toews centers a first line with rookie Brandon Saad and the injured Marian Hossa who could return as soon as Friday.  Dave Bolland was promoted to the second line before the season and has played with the Hart Trophy candidate Patrick Kane and the injured Patrick Sharp, schedule to return in mid-April and recently returned to skating.  Andrew Shaw has made a nice transition from the wing to center, where he has been manning a line with Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg.  Marcus Kruger has centered a highly successful fourth line with Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik.  Jamal Mayers and Jimmy Hayes have had success as well in limited time.  The defending is the same story, as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook still compose one of the best pairings in the league, while Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jhonny Oduya form a very good second pairing ahead of Nick Leddy and either Michal Rozsival or Sheldon Brookbank.  The depth of the team mixed with the star power is very rare, and by buying out Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz over the off-season, Chicago may be able to keep most of the roster intact for a full season run next year.

Regardless of the recent success of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it is the Chicago Blackhawks, not they, that are the class of the league and remain the favorites to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Phoenix Coyotes have been under the relocation spotlight since their 2009 bankruptcy, with the potential to find a home outside of Glendale.  Despite the large scale interest from markets such as Hamilton, Ontario and their former home in Winnipeg, Manitoba (a market that would eventually land the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011), the league has remained committed to hockey in the desert.  Now, after a deal with Greg Jamison failed to be completed and a new mayor – less willing to provide financial support – entered the fold, the NHL again is reluctantly looking at relocation.

It was widely reported during the lockout that the league was looking to expand by two teams – with Quebec and a second Toronto franchise based in Markham being the front-runners, and Seattle also in the fray – and the realignment to two uneven conferences supports these assertions.  The city of Portland, Oregon was also recently reported to be luring the Phoenix franchise, but neither they nor Toronto appear to be on the shortlist for relocation.

Instead, Kansas City joins Quebec and Seattle as the leading candidates for the Coyotes to play in as early as next season.  Quebec – the former home of the Quebec Nordiques, and immediate rivals with the Montreal Canadiens – has a new stadium set to open in time for the 2015-16 NHL stadium, so a temporary venue would have to be used in order for the team to start play next season.  Seattle has a new stadium plan, but it would be contingent upon the NBA’s decision on the fate of the Sacramento Kings, whose owners have agreed to sell the franchise to a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen.  Kansas City – former home of the Kansas City Scouts – has had a vacant stadium ready to house an NBA or NHL franchise in the Sprint Center since it opened in 2007.

It would seem that of the three, Quebec or Seattle are the most likely to be awarded the franchise, with the other joining Toronto in a 2015 expansion to 32 teams.

Should the team be awarded to Quebec, the league’s realignment plan for next season that has already been approved may be thrown into jeopardy – as Phoenix is set to play in the 14-team Western Conference, where Quebec would be best fit in the 16-team Eastern Conference – though it could be bettered by mere swap of Colorado from the further east of the new Western Conference Divisions for the newly relocated Coyotes.  In this scenario, Quebec would play in a division with the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets.  The team would have to wait until the 2015-16 season to be possibly realigned to join the Montreal Canadiens in a division.  Kansas City would be more feasible in the approved realignment, though the same swamp of Colorado would lessen travel.  Seattle would not require any modification to the realignment plan and would form an instant rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks to the north.

As reported by Darren Dreger, news on the potential relocation is likely before the playoffs begin at the end of April or beginning of May, giving the situation approximately a month to develop.

The 2013-14 Proposed NHL Realignment

Posted: February 27, 2013 in NHL

For the second time in as many years, the NHL is working on undergoing a complete realignment of its teams, instigated by the 2011 relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg as the Jets.  Located in Central Canada, Winnipeg has remained in the Southeast Division for each of the last two seasons, a division that also includes the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals – hardly natural rivals.

In December 2011, the league’s Board of Governors approved a radical realignment into four separate conferences; however, these efforts were rejected by the NHLPA.

The four unnamed conferences were to be as follows:

Conference A: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks

Conference B: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets

Conference C: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs

Conference D: Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

Clearly, conferences A and B had more teams than conference C and D, though no perfect balance is possible in a thirty team league into four divisions, and many speculated that expansion was on the horizon.

Reports during the lockout surfaced that the league may look to add expansion franchises in Quebec and the Toronto suburb of Markham in the near future.  Finally, in February 2012, details began to leak of a new realignment and playoff system to begin in the 2013-14 season.  The Eastern and Western conference would remain intact in the new proposal, with each divided into two divisions.  The East would be composed of the Atlantic and Central divisions, and the West would consist of the Mid-West and Pacific divisions.  The top three teams in each division qualify for the post-season automatically, with two more teams qualifying as wild cards in either division within the conference’s playoffs.  The 1st seed would play the wild card team (the better 1st seed against the 2nd wild card and the 2nd highest against the first), while the second and third seeds in each division would play each other in the Division Semifinals.  The teams go on to play in the Division Finals, and it is possible for a team in the Atlantic Division to be Central Division champions due to the wild card cross-over rule.  A similar system is employed in the Canadian Football League, and formerly, Major League Soccer.  The Division winners would face off in the Conference Finals, followed by the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the new realignment, it is the Western divisions with just seven teams rather than the East, as both Detroit and Columbus have made the switch, with Winnipeg heading west.  The only major rivalry diminished is that of Chicago and Detroit.  The alignments are as follows:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Central Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

Western Conference

Mid-West Division: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

Pacific Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

 

Under the current system, the playoff standings are currently as follows:

Eastern Conference: Montreal (27), Pittsburgh (26), Carolina (19), Boston (26), Ottawa (26), New Jersey (24), Toronto (24), Tampa Bay (19)

Western Conference: Chicago (35), Anaheim (27), Vancouver (24), Nashville (23), St. Louis (22), Dallas (22), Detroit (21), Los Angeles (20)

With the new system, the playoffs would be as follows (assuming same point totals):

Atlantic: Pittsburgh (26), New Jersey (24), Carolina (19)

Central: Montreal (27), Boston (26), Ottawa (26)

Eastern Conference Wild Card: Toronto (24), Detroit (21)

Mid-West: Chicago (35), Nashville (23), St. Louis (22)

Pacific: Anaheim (27), Vancouver (24), Los Angeles (20)

Western Conference Wild Card: Dallas (22), San Jose (19)

 

The only difference between the lists of teams qualifying for the playoffs between these two systems is that Detroit, currently 7th in the Western Conference, is instead the second Eastern Conference wild card, knocking Tampa Bay out of the mix and letting San Jose enter as the second wild card in the Western Conference.  While some teams may be better off in the current system, the new system will put extra emphasis on divisional games, especially with the new division-oriented post-season.

 

The current bracket for the first round would be:

Atlantic: #4 Detroit @ #1 Pittsburgh, #3 Carolina @ #2 New Jersey

Central: #4 Toronto @ #1 Montreal, #3 Ottawa @ #2 Boston

Mid-West: #4 San Jose @ #1 Chicago, #3 St. Louis @ #2 Nashville

Pacific: #4 Dallas @ #1 Anaheim, #3 Los Angeles @ #2 Vancouver

Three wild card teams cross over to another division in this system, with Toronto being the only number four seed to remain within its own division, and the Central Division being the only division to send five of its teams to the post-season.

The NHL Lockout is nearing an official end as the league and player’s association agreed to a tentative deal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, pending approval that could come as soon as Tuesday.  Here are the top ten things to know and to follow in the post-lockout National Hockey League.

10) The Arizona Coyotes

Greg Jamison is reportedly on the verge of finally completing his purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes.  As part of the provisions of their new twenty-year lease agreement, Jamison will have to rename the team the “Arizona Coyotes” as soon as it is economically and practically feasible.

9) The Off-season Moves are Far From Over

The NHL off-season was proving to be an exciting one as star players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were long courted before signing together with the Minnesota Wild.  As the lockout began, the off-season was interrupted, with all moves being delayed and leaving a lot of teams still searching to fill the holes on their roster.

8) Salary Cap

Team will be allowed to spend up to $70.2 Million for the 2012-13 (or technically, the 2013) season, but the salary cap will drop to $64.3 Million for the 2013-14 season, leaving several teams in cap trouble (though #6 on this list will show a way out of this).  Teams currently above that $63.4 Million threshold include the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning.  Meanwhile, league minimum wage is set to increase throughout the CBA.

7) Draft Lottery

One of the more major changes in the CBA is that the team with the worst record will no longer be given the first pick int he draft automatically.  Instead, a draft lottery similar to that of the NBA will be held, with all fourteen teams that do not make the post-season having a chance at the pick.  It is unknown if this would be adjusted in case of expansion of the league or playoffs.

6) Amnesty Buyouts

Each team will have a way out of some of their cap troubles, with the opportunity to buyout two players on bad contracts.  The buyouts may only be used during this off-season and next, not later during the CBA.

5) Increased Revenue Sharing

Revenue sharing has increased to $200 Million, and if structured properly, will help solve the problem of the league’s many franchises that are currently in economic flux.

4) Radical Realignment

Radical realignment was first proposed for the 2012-13 season, and was approved by the league Board of Governors before the Players Association blocked it.  It still may happen in the future under the new CBA, but how quickly it will be implemented is up in the air.  The league currently has a major alignment problem, as the Winnipeg Jets are still playing in the Southeast Division since their 2011-12 relocation from Atlanta.  The realignment, which would feature four conferences, would solve the travel issues and make it much more simple to move teams in the future pending relocation of expansion.  The proposed conferences are as follows:

Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

Conference D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Conferences C and D each had only seven teams as opposed to the eight of conference A and B, paving the way for expansion rumors.

3) Expanded Playoffs

Rumors have recently started that the league is looking to expand the playoffs to twenty teams, which would likely coincide with the realignment.  The top three teams in each of the four conferences – twelve total – would be automatically in the second round, while a brief round would take place between the fourth and fifth seeds of each conference to determine which would have the right to face the first seed in the second round.

2) Expansion

The realignment, the playoff expansion, it all point to one thing: adding two expansion teams to the league.  Reports surfaced during the lockout that Bettman would announce expansion teams for Quebec and Toronto at some point after the end of the lockout.  Quebec formerly hosted the Nordiques before their relocation to Denver as the Colorado Avalanche.  Toronto currently is occupied by the Maple Leafs, far and away the most valuable franchise in the league, but could easily support a second.  While expansion seems probable, it is more than likely that these cities won’t immediately be announced as the recipients of the teams, given that ownership groups must be found first.

1) Hockey For At Least Eight Years

The most important thing to come out of the second lockout since the 2004-2005 non-season is that there will be uninterrupted hockey for at least eight years.  Though the CBA is ten years long, each side has the right to opt out after the eighth season of the deal.

EXPANSION: Which Leagues Are Ready For It?

Posted: November 27, 2012 in CFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

Expansion has always been a topic of discussion for every major sports league, though many leagues in the past have met their deaths because they’ve expanded too much (especially the NASL).  Baseball Prospectus recently released a study that shows which ten North American cities would be best suited for MLB expansion earlier in November, the NFL has obviously been looking at Los Angeles, rumors have circulated of the NHL planning expansion into Quebec and Toronto’s suburbs, and MLS has expanded every season since 2005 (though that streak will end in 2013, with the second New York club expected in 2016 or 2017).  While expanding a league’s footprint is usually a good thing, some leagues may not be ready for it just yet.

National Football League – The NFL is the Everest in the professional sports landscape, with attendances rivaled only by some of the more popular college football teams and revenues through the roof.  The league’s 32 teams are the most of any major league, yet a glaring omission exists in Los Angeles.  The NFL and AFL have combined for three teams in the city since the AFL’s inception in 1960: the Chargers (relocated to San Diego in 1961), the Raiders (relocated to Oakland in 1995), and the Rams (relocated to St. Louis in 1995), but stadium problems forced the latter two out, leaving the city without a franchise.  Serious consideration has been given to either relocate an existing team or place an expansion team in the city in the proposed new Farmers Field.  In the case of the NFL, the time is right for expansion into the nation’s second-largest city.

Major League Baseball – Many MLB teams are seeing considerable success financially in recent years, but other teams such as Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and of course the Marlins who traded away all of their star players in a single trade just a year after receiving a new publicly-financed stadium.  While some markets may be able to support a team, specifically Northern New Jersey and Portland, relocation would seem to be the better route to take.

Canadian Football League – The Canadian Football League originally announced an expansion team for Ottawa in 2008, but the franchise has yet to begin play even after holding an expansion draft and has only recently broke ground on a stadium.  As it stands, the eight-team league is expected to expand to nine in 2014 or 2015, but the obvious struggles in launching a team in the Canadian capital should thwart attempts at any further expansion for the time being (though Halifax or Moncton are still being considered)

Major League Soccer – Major League Soccer is probably the major league best poised for expansion, as the league has expanded rapidly since 2005 with positive results: Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake (2005), Houston (2006), Toronto (2007), San Jose (2008), Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010), Portland and Vancouver (2011), and Montreal (2012).  In a normal scenario, this would water down the league’s talent pool, but soccer’s talent pool is so international that there is almost no risk of a shortage and the continued expansion has brought many healthy franchised into league, greatly improving its economic situation.

National Hockey League – Amid the lockout, rumors have circulated that the NHL was close to awarding expansion franchised to Quebec, Quebec and the Toronto suburb of Markham, Ontario.  While this would provide the league with new healthy franchises in the great hockey market that is Canada, and both cities could definitely support teams, it also takes away possibilities for relocation of some of the league’s struggling franchises (of which there are plenty of).  The verdict on the NHL would have to be a no.

National Basketball Association – The NBA has grown as a league in recent years, surpassing the MLB as the second most popular professional league in the US.  However, it is clear that the Sacramento Kings want to relocate, as they can not reach a proper stadium deal in their current city, and whenever a scenario like this exists, the first method to grant teams to new cities has to be relocation.

ScoSports Coverage

Posted: November 20, 2012 in MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

ScoSports is a new independent blog aimed to provide the top news from around the American sporting scope.  Coverage is intended to include mostly Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, National Basketball Association, National Football League, and the National Hockey League, though coverage will certainly venture elsewhere in the case of big events.

About Jackson Scofield

I’ve written for various sites including ChiCitySports.com and WorldSeriesDreaming.com, and still do, but have found myself trapped by the limited scope of the websites, focusing on just one city or just one team.  Recently, I decided it would be best to also have my own blog where I could write about sports in general, though a little bit of Chicago bias may still be prevalent.  I am graduating in May and am looking to attend college with a Sports Journalism major.
You can follow me on twitter as @jacksonSCOfield (personal) or @WSDScofield (Cubs minor league).