Friday, May 25, 2007

More on Preds' Potential Sale

David Johnson over at Hockey Analysis has a couple of recent posts of relevance to the Preds' impending sale to Jim Balsillie. In the post he made the day of the sale, he predicts that Balsillie will slash payroll and cause the Preds to tank:
So, knowing Basille wants to move the team and needs low attendance to break the lease to do that, what incentive does Basille have in maintaining a $40 million payroll to ice a good, entertaining team and lose money in the process? Right, very little. His only interest would be to keep young players that will be good players when he gets his team to Waterloo a couple years from now. So, say goodbye to unrestricted free agents Kimmo Timonen, Paul Kariya, and Peter Forsberg. But why stop there? Why not trade Steve Sullivan for a prospect or draft pick. He certainly won’t be around to play 3 years downt he road. Or he could trade high priced players like Tomas Vokoun, Jason Arnott and Marek Zidlicky.
I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be disgusted by such a maneuver. I know Balsillie doesn't want to lose money, but the best option for everyone is to continue to try to develop a strong team and play out his lease. If he's still losing money, move away. But I would hate to see the Wings' only real competition in the central take a nosedive in 2008. I do enjoy not playing in a top-to-bottom competitive division like the northwest, but those Preds games at the end of the season were by far the best hockey on TV in 06-07 besides the playoffs.

As if psychic, before the announcement of the Preds' sale, Johnson also posted on the topic of non-traditional hockey markets in general, saying that Bettman's plan to make hockey popular in America has failed and won't work:

It is time for the NHL owners to realize that Gary Bettman’s master plan of ‘if you expand, they will watch’ has not worked, is not working, and will not likely ever work. It is time to realize that the NHL has a better hope of growing their fan base in cities like Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and even Columbus or in a new market like Portland or Seattle than in Nashville, Miami, Carolina and Phoenix. You can have a Stanley Cup winning team in Carolina or one of the best, most entertaining teams to watch in Nashville but the new fans they generate pales in comparison to the new fan interest that has been generated in Buffalo now that a quality, stable franchise exists or in Pittsburgh now that that franchise is getting better on the ice and looking more stable off the ice. If Buffalo and Pittsburgh can generate huge new fan interest in those smaller American cities, just imagine how many new fans could be created if Chicago or Boston got a better product on the ice or started marketing their franchises better. The sooner the NHL begins to realize that the future of the NHL in the U.S. is in Boston and Chicago and St. Louis and not in Miami or Nashville or Phoenix the better.

The NHL needs to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a regional (i.e. northern U.S., Canada) sport, and you can even get national TV deals when the majority of your audience is regional, and then grow from there.
Maybe Dave is right, but I'd still like to see hockey work in places like Nashville, Miami, Phoenix, etc. I understand though that there are other markets more likely to succeed. Tough call.