Rabid Habs

Around The NHL – NHL Expansion and Arizona Coyotes

Quebec Nordiques fans Photo - Getty Images

NHL Expansion

On Monday July 7th, the window for expansion applications closed and two teams formally applied: Quebec City and Las Vegas. The last time the NHL expanded was in 2000 when they added Minnesota and Columbus to bring the number of teams to the current total of 30. It should be noted that the league has not formally accepted either of the two franchises (Quebec City/Las Vegas) into the NHL. They have merely promised to seriously consider both applications. It is possible none or one or both teams will be accepted.

It is debatable whether the NHL should even be considering expansion at the present time. First, there are already thirty teams in the league and not all of them are thriving. For example, the Florida Panthers struggled to fill even half their arena. Other struggling teams are Carolina and Arizona. Another factor to consider is the Canadian dollar. A big reason why Quebec City was relocated the first time was due to the weak Canadian dollar. Currently, the Canadian dollar is at a level similar to when the Nordiques relocated to Colorado in 1996. The NHL will certainly take that into consideration. Local Vancouver Columnist Tony Gallagher wrote an interesting piece outlining the challenges Quebec City faces in getting the NHL to approve their expansion bid.

There are certainly some major concerns about Las Vegas getting a franchise as well. Perhaps the greatest concern is multiple pro franchises have failed in Las Vegas. Then there’s the obvious concern over gambling.

Personally, I think the NHL will either approve both franchises or neither franchise. As mentioned above, the NHL currently has 30 teams. It would create imbalance with playoffs having an uneven number of teams in the league. However, another point to consider is there are currently 2 extra teams in the Eastern conference. Adding both Quebec City and Las Vegas would keep that deficit the same. Las Vegas would be a Western Conference team and Quebec City would play in the Eastern conference. If the NHL opts for only one new franchise, Las Vegas has the edge. Quebec City has already had the opportunity to have an NHL team and they failed. Las Vegas had a successful ticket drive and this would be their first NHL team. I stress once more that we are a long way from either city being granted an NHL team. It is very possible the league decides the NHL has enough teams already.

Let’s assume both Quebec City and Las Vegas get NHL franchises in 2-3 years. A major realignment and restructuring of the divisions will be required. Rabid Habs Twitter account proposed the following realignment with Las Vegas and Quebec City included. I disagree with this alignment for one main reason. It completely separates the Canadian teams from the US teams. I do like the four teams per division, 2 conferences idea. Below is my idea (no names of divisions):

VAN-CAL-EDM-SJ | LA-ANA-LV-ARI | COL-STL-DAL-NAS | WIN-MIN-DET-CHI | TOR-OTT-BUF-NYR | MTL-QUE-BOS-NYI | CBUS-PIT-PHI-NJ | TB-FLA-WAS-CAR

I know this is not perfect but you can find flaws in any alignment. Habs fans, feel free to comment on this post with your possible division alignments. Also, weigh in on whether you think Quebec City and/or Las Vegas or neither will be awarded an NHL franchise

Glendale City Council agrees on revamped lease agreement.

Thursday July 23rd, the Glendale City council came to an agreement on a  revised lease with the Arizona Coyotes. The new deal is significantly shorter than the last one and it puts way less financial pressure on the city of Glendale. The Coyotes have always struggled to break even, struggling to fill their arena. Their playoff success, or lack thereof, has much to do with this.

Also, Phoenix is not a traditional hockey market and the Coyotes have to compete with the Suns (NBA), Diamondbacks (MLB) and Cardinals (NFL) for fans. The new lease was very significant to the possible NHL expansion. A few weeks ago, Glendale city council voted to walk away from the lease agreement citing the massive financial burden the deal placed on the city. Under the old agreement, Glendale was forced to eat much of the losses the Coyotes incurred during the season. By backing out of the deal, the door was open to the Coyotes either being relocated or folding altogether. Under that scenario, Las Vegas would have been the more likely candidate to replace the Coyotes. Now that the new deal has been reached, NHL expansion is the only current option for Quebec City and/or Las Vegas to get an NHL team. It also brings further stability to the Coyotes, for the next two years at least.

The coming months will be very telling indeed.

Follow me on Twitter @tpoole00.