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Realignment, a hair-brained scheme?

In his weekly Slap Shots column, the New York Post's Larry Brooks suggests that the Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Jets, Wild, Stars and Avs are the only beneficiaries of the NHL's realignment plan, and Brooks wonders how the heck Gary Bettman managed to convince the rest of the league to go along with a "benefit of the few" scheme (say what you will about Brooks' column, but he does point out that the Rangers are asking fans to pony up more $ for tickets, and I'm hearing that from many markets--including my own--about regular-season and especially playoff seats):

[T]hat accounts for 20 percent of the league, which means, if I can correctly recall math lessons taught at P.S. 87 by Miss Feldman, more than enough of the remaining 80 percent of the league’s owners signed on for a system that is of no benefit to their respective franchises or, most critically, to their own respective constituencies.

Nothing is more preposterous than pretending this structure benefits the Lightning and Panthers because of a few extra visits a year by the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Red Wings (and fewer from the Rangers, Flyers and Penguins). Travel will be murderous, as it will be for the Predators, too, by the way.

Tampa Bay’s economic issue is not attendance-related. It’s a gate-receipts matter. Realignment can’t address that. And if Florida’s success is dependent upon a marketing campaign based upon its opponents, well, the move to Quebec can’t come quickly enough.

There was no reason, none whatsoever, for any franchise in the East (other than Winnipeg, of course) to support this realignment. Every team will travel many more miles. Every team’s schedule will feature fewer games against competitors for playoff spots and more against teams whose outcomes will produce diluted meaning in the standings.

There will be more dead spots in the schedule than at any time in three decades, since the NHL played a balanced schedule in 1979-80 and 1980-81 with a 1-16 playoff seeding structure. There will be more soft tickets in more Eastern Conference cities than in years, and honestly, does anyone think the good folks of Edmonton and Calgary will flock to the rink to see the Panthers or Sabres (or, for that matter, the Rangers if they’re terrible)?

It is, as usual, the big-market fans — whose money drives the NHL economy — who will pay for a system contrary to their own interests. It has been that way through the lockouts, and it is now that way regarding realignment. Taken for granted, as always.

Brooks continues and discusses one of his favorite topics ahead of the GM's meetings in possibly increasing the size of the net...

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So he believes gate receipts and attendance are not related. I’ve never been a big fan of Brooks, but a reasonable portion of this is amazingly ignorant and short sighted. He doesn’t see immediate benefits for the rangers do everything is a bad idea? Great foresight.

Posted by teldar on 03/17/13 at 07:02 AM ET

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He seems to forget the realignment kept the metroplex teams together with Pittsburgh. Had the realignment been purely geographic it would have divided the NY area from the Penguins, possibly Philly and Washington. The Florida teams did get screwed over, but their travel is still less than west coast teams. The winners were the West, to some degree the Midwest, baring the loss of Detroit, and the NE, which has 4 original six teams. Combined with the Metroplex staying together you can see where the votes came in.  A large majority of teams are better off. Finally it is good for the league to have every team come through their building once a year. I liked last years realignment model better than this, but it is still better than what we have today.

Posted by timbits on 03/17/13 at 12:50 PM ET

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I’m struggling with Brooks’ argument.  Generally, reading between the lines, he is likely upset that after the lockout and the cramdown, the league is not suffering economically.

The Rangers, I gather, would love to play an unbalanced schedule against NJ, NYI, Phi, Pit and Bos. But fans in other big markets, especially the Canadian markets, do want to see each team in the league every season. I know out here in Vancouver, it’s an event when an Original 6 team like the Rangers visit whether they are good or not. Edmonton fans might not be over the moon at the prospect of a Panthers visit, but is it any worse that multiple visits from Colorado or Columbus?  I, too, liked last year’s realignment better. But the new system is loads better than the current system.

Posted by YouppiKiYay on 03/17/13 at 03:01 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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