Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bruckheimer bids for Vegas team?

SportsBusiness Journal is reporting that Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer has been in talks with the NHL about an expansion team in Las Vegas:
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed that the league has been in discussions with powerful film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer about owning a franchise in Las Vegas, amid growing speculation that the NHL is on the verge of proposing expansion to Las Vegas and K.C. A group led by Bruckheimer, an avid hockey fan, is the front-runner for the Las Vegas expansion and has been in talks with NHL officials for months, sources said.
At the Stanley Cup Finals Game Four in Ottawa on Monday, there was a buzz that an announcement about the league considering expansion to Las Vegas and K.C. was imminent, hockey sources said.
Bruckheimer has been seen at various NHL events the past few days during the finals in Anaheim, including a few photo ops with Gary Bettman.

The expansion reports have been picking up recently, which would seem to indicate we're going to be looking at a 32-team league in the near future. Moving Nashville to southern Ontario and into the Eastern Conference and putting teams in Vegas and Kansas City in the Western Conference would create a new, bloated and equally-divided league, one that would likely be back at four divisions.

The new New NHL, circa 2008-09?

Western Conference

Division 1
Division 2
Los Angeles
Las Vegas
Kansas City
San Jose
St. Louis

Eastern Conference

Division 1
Division 2
New Jersey
N.Y. Islanders
N.Y. Rangers
S. Ontario
Tampa Bay



At 1:54 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous BDH said...

I can't wait to see how the powers that be muck up that schedule.

At 1:58 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Road Apples said...

dear god.

how many is too many? yeahyeah moneymoneymoney. *sigh*

that hypothetical (and monstrous) 4-division setup looks unreal when you think about how the old 4-division setup looked in the 80s.

odds are getting quite high that most fans will never see their team win a Cup in their lifetime. This stinks.

(says a still sorrowful Sabres fan of 35+ years...)


At 2:06 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Paul Nicholson said...

Moving Nashville to the east would also screw up what i thought the other goal of adding two West teams would be: moving Detroit to the east.
They are the only team in the Western Conference that is in the Eastern time zone aren't they?

I think this is one of the reasons Bettman doesn't want Nashville to move (besides they are one of his babies). It screws with the Detroit plan.

At 2:18 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Delicious said...

I get to call it "Ottowa" if you get to call it "Los Vegas."

Even though I think this is too many teams, I'm willing to be bought off if they manage to get the whole Eastern Conference to come through once a year -- here in Las Angeles, I mean.

At 2:18 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't Columbus and Nashville in the eastern time zone?

At 2:33 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Keith said...

The Flyers in a division without the Devils, Rangers, or Isles?

At 2:33 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who make fun of small typos on blogs are morons.

At 2:34 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

Columbus is further east than Detroit is.

Will it be 4 divisions or 8 like the NFL?

I'm one of the minority that doesn't think expansion to 32 is wrong. I just wonder what's going to happen when they expand to Europe...

The league expanded too quickly in the 90's, but the league can handle, talent wise, even 46 more NHL players (2 full NHL rosters). It wasn't lack of talent (remember that Europe was opening up at the same time as expansion) that was the problem with 90's expansion, it was disparity and questionable markets.

At 2:55 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Brucio, back away from the Bettman-flavored Kool-Aid. Whether anybody in the sunbelt is sitting in the stands ("questionable market") makes no difference to the quality on the ice. And there's always been disparity between teams (the Original Six Blackhawks were the Red Wings' bitches, thanks to the criminal Norris family). Hockey sucks because there isn't the talent to go around. Fourth-line Finns, homesick Swedes and floating Russioslovakians do not make for good hockey. The NHL desperately needs fewer teams, not more.

At 3:01 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

A more sensible reorganization from a geographical and time zone basis - and to keep the Canadian teams together, and Philly and New York together is to have 8 divisions as follows (much like the NFL):
Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal S. Ontario
Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington
Islanders, Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia
Carolina, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa
Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus
St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, Colorado,
LosAngeles, Anahiem, LasVegas, Phoenix,
Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, SanJose

At 3:06 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Matt said...

I just know you threw Pitt and Washington together because the NHL will want Crosby/AO as much as possible.

But as a Buffalo fan, Christ, I don't want to be playing one or the other 16-20 times a year.

At 3:20 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Frank's realignment. He knows his geography. It looks like the owners are needing some coin to cover for a lack of a decent TV deal in the States. I could see this one coming. The league needs to reduce roster sizes if this happens. It will force teams to play less neutral zone defense and use only 3 forward lines. Plus throw in a bonus point for teams that win in regulation by 3 goals or more(excluding empty-netters). That should enhance offense. Sorry Lou and Burkie,but teams need to earn championships using their skill, not by exploiting hot goalies and sitting on the puck.

At 3:37 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

Re the allignment, I should have added that if the NHL goes this way they will probably add an extra round of playoffs, and have 24 teams make the playoffs.

The first round would be a quick best of 3 or 5 between the second and third place teams in each division, while the first place team has a buy. The winner would then face the first place team in a best of 7.

After that Division winners would play off with Div. 1 vs. Div. 2; Div. 3 vs. Div.4; Div. 5 vs Div. 6; Div. 7 vs Div. 8.

The two eastern winners would play each other and the two western winners would play each other. The eastern winner would then play the western winner for the Cup. There would be no "seeding" based on point.

At 3:48 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

Whoever the random lurker is...

There's always a first... don't think anyone's every accused me of drinking Bettman's Kool-Aid before. If you don't think the opening up of the Iron Curtain greatly enhanced the league's talent pool then I guess there's not much point reasoning with you. It also helped take useless thugs that couldn't skate out of the game, by logic if the NHL had expanded without the help of Europe there'd be a ridiculous amount of goons in the NHL today. Teams in the 1980s carried several, not just a token like they do today.

It's all about the markets. If Winnipeg had the world's greatest handball team, they would still have a tough time selling it to locals. That was the fault of the 90's expansion. It wasn't bad quality hockey, it was bad marketing.

At 3:50 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

Anything that means less Montreal vs Boston is a bad idea. I'd rather Montreal and Buffalo switched divisions, Frank.

At 4:04 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger The Forechecker said...

Just to clarify, Columbus is in the Eastern time zone, Nashville is in the Central.

Frankly, I don't understand the appeal of Kansas City. They've already got NFL and MLB, so where's all the extra cash going to come from to support an NHL team over the long term? Sure, they've got an arena with a sweetheart lease waiting, but I would think Hartford, Winnipeg, or K-W make for better expansion markets.

At 4:13 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Hockey sucks because there isn't the talent to go around. Fourth-line Finns, homesick Swedes and floating Russioslovakians do not make for good hockey. The NHL desperately needs fewer teams, not more.

Sigh. Apparently everyone stopped reading the Red Line thread too early. This argument is bogus. So, I'll repost what I said there:

The idea that trap hockey is caused by expansion is ludicrous. It doesn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny. The NHL's expansion was too great for business reasons, some of which are bad for fans in both direct and indirect ways. It isn't responsible for the lack of scoring.

Think about it. Over the last seventeen years, the NHL has expanded from 21 teams to 30. That's an increase of 42%. Over the same period, the population of Canada has increased by 18%. The population of the US has gone up faster than that, but it's primarily in non-hockey playing areas, so let's use that same figure.

That would mean that the NHL could have expanded by almost four teams without diluting the already existing talent base at all. Of course, the NHL is drawing from a much greater talent base than it was in 1990. At that point, the NHL was about 75% Canadian, and about 10% European. It's now around 45% Canadian, and about 40% European.

I'm sure I could dig up the exact numbers somewhere, but an estimation should be good enough for these purposes. Let's assume a 24 man roster. If Canadians made up 75% of rosters in a 21 team league, that means that there were 378 Canadians on rosters in 1990. If they make up 45% of rosters in a 30 team league, then there should be around 324 Canadians on NHL rosters now.

So, despite the population of Canada having increased by 18% over this period, the number of Canadian NHL players has gone down, at least by this crude estimate.

There are only two ways that the average skill level of NHL players could have gone down over this period. The first is if Canada has become much less proficient at producing hockey players, and so teams have had to turn to less skilled alternatives. The other is if NHL GMs have become much less proficient at picking skilled players out of the pool of available talent.

Now, I'm as dismissive of the abilities of NHL GMs as anyone, but I don't believe that they've become substantially worse. I'm not all that familiar with player development in Canada, but I suspect that it isn't much worse than it was previously. Thus, I don't believe that average player skill has gone down since the 1980s.

The argument that expansion has led to where we are is complete *********.

At 4:16 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Frankly, I don't understand the appeal of Kansas City.

Neither do I, but the fact remains the league is going to put a team there because an existing owner (Anschutz) is willing to pay big dollars to do so.

Why? I haven't a clue.

At 4:24 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Tex said...

The geography in Frank's is still a bit off -- LA is further north than San Jose.

This map illustrates the absurdity of it all. Note that moving Phoenix to Winnipeg and slipping into the Northwest division - bumping LA in with the Cali teams - would make so much sense. And the northeast divisions are interchangeable.

At 4:42 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Reagen Sulewski said...

j.m. neal:

The number of Europeans in the NHL has been declining since 2001.

Canadians still make up a majority of the league
and are in higher proportion among younger players.

At 4:51 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger rosco said...

Damien Cox wrote about this back in January during the all-star fiasco that gave every writer the time to overthink the problems of the NHL.

as long as the Canadian dollar is as strong as the US dollar, aren't Canadian markets the better, safer bet for the NHL? wasn't the currency exchange problem the ultimate undoing of hockey in Canada during the 1990s, since revenues were in Canadian dollars and salaries and other expense were in US dollars?

also, if the NHL is considering expanding to two more markets, wouldn't the owners of Atlanta, Florida, and every other struggling franchise be upset at the idea of losing two potential relocation cities? if 32 cities are in play, where do you move the troubled franchises when they realize they can't make their markets work? what cities are left? without any place to move, doesn't this just force contraction or league intervention (like the Expos and MLB) in a couple of years? if i was an owner of a crappy team, as much as i would love the expansion fee cash, i would vote against this proposal.

(american television viewership of game one of the stanley cup finals trailed the food network's "build a better burger" and slightly bettered two episodes of "mama's family" on the ion network. is it safe to say that americans aren't buying what bettman is selling?)

At 4:53 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous marchantfan said...

Tex, thanks for that very instructive map. Looking at it, I'd rather see Phoenix-as-Winnipeg as part of Division #6 (with St. Louis, Kansas City, and Dallas), San Jose as part of the California division, and Colorado as part of the Western Canadian division. In terms of time zones, that's probably a better fit. Vancouver would be only 1 time zone away from the other teams, instead of 2 time zones away from Winnipeg, and Winnipeg would be in the same time zone as its fellow division members.

Google maps is extremely useful!

At 6:11 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger Ryan Wolstat said...

This is the perfect opportunity for the NHL to make the game far better.
The NHL needs to go to four-on-four.
Making the ice bigger is not an option because teams would have to take out seats and lose revenue.

4-on-4 would give today's bigger, stronger players the room they need to make the game more exciting.
It would lead to more goals and a more entertaining game.

The NHLPA will never agree to lose 4 players from each team (120 in all), so you appease them by adding an expansion team or two (46 new players) and the promise of more expansion.
It's the best way to save the game.
But what do I know, I'm a basketball guy.

At 9:03 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Per Ryan Wolstat's comments, I think going to 4 on 4 would be a EASY sell with the NHLPA - even without expansion.

Yes each team would lose 4 roster spots or 120 spots across the current 30 teams. Assuming 22 man rosters, this represents an 18.2% reduction in players (120 of the 660).

However, under the new CBA the remaining players are still guaranteed of receiving 55% of gross revenues.

Therefore if the number of players is reduced by 18.2% the remaining 81.8% of players would receive higher salaries.

Currently, the average salary is $2.0 million for 660 players or a total league payroll of $1,320 million.

Assuming all 120 eliminated players are making the minimum of approximately $500,000, then $60 million ($500,000 x 120)would be redistributed on a prorata basis to the remaining players who have a payroll of $1,260 million ($1,320 million - $60 million). This represents a 4.76% salary increase for the remaining players ($60 million / $1,260 million x 100).

In summary, while going 4 on 4 would eliminate 120 player (18.2%)the remaining 540 players (81.8%) would receive a 4.76% salary increase. Therefore, I believe the majority of NHLPA members would approve 4 on 4. Expansion, would of course make it even more acceptable.

At 9:41 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Canadians still make up a majority of the league
and are in higher proportion among younger players.

Nevertheless, these numbers support my larger point. It gives the number of Canadians in the league as 516, but that's based upon a 32 man roster. I was operating under the assumption of a 24 man roster. Multiply 516 by .75, and you get 387. While that's greater than my estimate of the number of Canadians playing today, it's pretty much the same as the number of Canadians there were per 24 roster spaces in 1990. Given that the Canadian population has grown substantially, the ratio of Canadian hockey players to all Canadians has still gone down despite expansion.

At 9:47 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

Given that the Canadian population has grown substantially, the ratio of Canadian hockey players to all Canadians has still gone down despite expansion.

On a somewhat related point, just out of curiosity, I wonder how much of a role immigration is playing in Canadian hockey fandom. As ethnic demographics change, are immigrants embracing hockey, or sticking with the sports they or their parents grew up with (such a soccer)?

(I know it's a digression--please don't yell at me. :)

At 11:12 p.m., June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, let's flip the talent-level argument around. If we assume the top 700+/- players in the world currently work in the NHL, expansion by two franchises means the extra 50+/- NHL jobs must be filled by players not currently in the NHL. The majority of these players likely will come from those currently toiling in the AHL. Some will be Europeans or Canadians playing out the string in Europe and hoping for invites to the Spengler Cup. And one or two Alex Morozovs might be hiding in the weeds.
While at first all the dreck will be concentrated on the expansion teams, within five years the talent will be diluted. On average, each team will be down a Top 12 FW, a Top 6 Dman, or a Top 2 goalie from where they are now.
Is this what we want?

At 11:22 p.m., June 06, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I'm not arguing that talent is no more diluted if there is expansion than if there is no expansion; that would obviously be stupid. What I am saying is that the talent is no more diluted now than it was before expansion. Therefore, any decline in the quality of play since 1990 can not be cause by a lower average talent level, because such a lower talent level does not exist. Some other cause must be found to explain any drop in the quality of play.

One consequence of that is that it is not obvious that a lower average talent level means less interesting play. That claim hasn't been disproven, but we don't have any real justification for arguing that it is so. Off the top of my head, I can come up with as many reasons why a lower average talent level could lead to more scoring as the other way around: more turnovers leading to good scoring chances, and what have you.

Therefore, when arguing over whether expansion is a good idea or not, do not assume that diluting the talent leads to less interesting play. There really isn't any reason to think that. If you are going to believe that, I can't stop you, but I'm not sure what sort of persuasive basis there is for that.

Now, it's perfectly possible to oppose expansion for any number of other reasons. As I said, I think that, purely for business reasons, the NHL has overexpanded. I think expanding by another two teams is penny-wise and pound foolish; the short-term cash infusion would be nice for the owners, but the problems that already exist would be exacerbated by even more teams in the medium- and long-term.

Major League Baseball should expand by two more teams. The NHL should not.

At 1:52 a.m., June 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave it to Bettman to let this one happen, and for us to have another team in another city where no one really cares about hockey.

Bettman's gotta go!

At 11:20 a.m., June 07, 2007, Blogger Stan the Caddy said...

any decline in the quality of play since 1990 can not be cause by a lower average talent level, because such a lower talent level does not exist.

I don't understand what you're saying there. Every hockey player is equally talented? Geez, I should strap on my skates next fall and drop in on a training camp, I'm a shoe in.

I think the point that is being missed here is that your quantifying players with this "talent" thing and arguing that expansion dilution problems were solved by a waterfall of European players. While I haven't examined the numbers, I think it's important to understand that a players worth cannot be judge by talent alone (see Alexander Daigle). There's no doubt the game slowed down during the 90's and to say expansion had nothing to do with it is probably a little narrow minded. The single most important part of the game is skating, and by expanding so quickly, the league introduced over 150 players into the league, many of whom lacked the necessary skating skills to keep up the the leagues superstars. So now coaches have to deal with these slow moving players who have to be inserted somewhere (many of whom are now playing 10+ minutes in the NHL when they really shouldn't even be playing one) and the only way to make them useful players is to develop a more sound defensive system (trap).

If a diluted talent pool is not to blame for the slowing of the game, then what is it? Did the players take a meeting and decide that they weren't going to skate anymore or that only one or two players per team would display their talent so as to spike salaries?

Bettman thought he could create the NBA on ice, one or two stars per team and everyone will come to watch them. The only problem is, hockey players can only play a max of 1/2 the game (usually only D-men can do that) and so for the rest of the game the fans are supposed to be excited by human pylons playing against human pylons? Not a good strategy.

In my opinion, adding two more teams would be a huge mistake unless they make the transition to 4 on 4.

At 3:35 p.m., June 07, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

I don't understand what you're saying there. Every hockey player is equally talented? Geez, I should strap on my skates next fall and drop in on a training camp, I'm a shoe in.

Way to make an asinine assumption and run with it. What he means is that such a lower talent level does not exist in the NHL. You know, the current topic of conversation?

Let's turn the question on its head for a minute. Let's say the NHL contracts by six teams. Sure, for the next five years, you'd have a greater concentration of talent than we've seen in decades, but what about after that? Are teams going to continue to give kids opportunities in a 24-team league they would have gotten in a 30-team league due to available roster spaces, or are they going to build a team the same way they always have -- two scoring lines, a checking line, and a goon/energy line? Be honest, now.


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