Friday, September 9, 2011

Rating The Franchises: Bottom 10

1) Let me start by echoing Fauxrumors' sentiments he posted yesterday concerning the loss of the KHL team plane. We want to send out our condolences as well. It was indeed a shock/tragedy of intense magnitude.

2) Finally our last installment of our Franchises Ratings. This time the dreaded Bottom 10. These are teams that are either in trouble ownershipwise, have poorly run management, and/or have very little on ice success recently. Usually all of those go hand in hand. To review the ratings are based upon:

On ice success
Fan support
Ownership stability
City Intangibles
Competence of Management (coaches/GM/scouting/ownership)

  • Columbus: The Jackets are in the bottom 10 if for no other reason than they haven't yet won a post season game. (Only qualifying once). Initially they were well supported by the local populace, but years of losing and having little direction and only one star in Nash has eroded the fan base to where Nationwide Arena now has the 4th worst support of the 30 NHL franchises. Add to that the team states its losing millions a year and wants a new lease (sound familiar?). They aren't in the worst shape, but definitely in the top 5 of financially troubled NHL teams. Scott Howson's resume is far from impressive so far. Another bad season and he might be looking for work. Coach Scott Arniel has done OK with what he's had. Not impressed, but still early for him

  • Dallas: Once a top 10 franchise well run and a perennial playoff team if not Cup contender/winner. Now they are in limbo. The biggest factor is ownership where Tom Hicks once flush with cash has had trouble paying bills and is looking to unload the team if possible. For that reason they have gone from a team that will pay for/retain top talent to one that wants a reduced payroll. As a result the on ice product has suffered. As the team has withered, so has the previously strong fan support. Last season the American Airlines Arena was at only a tad over 81% filled or in the bottom 10 attendance-wise. Until the ownership issue is resolved it doesn't look good for the Stars to emerge from the bottom tier.

  • Florida: From top to bottom one of the most chronically dysfunctional teams in the NHL. Owners have come and gone (Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel being the latest). New GM's and coaches have been tried, but the culture of losing continues. Current GM Dale Tallon was forced to spend to reach the floor after he disassembled last year's team. Reckless spending after reckless trading doesn't bode well for improvement. We feel for new coach Kevin Dineen, as he inherits a mess. A decade removed from their last playoff appearance and 16 years since their last playoff win, its actually incredible that their are actually 8 teams with worse attendance despite this long term futility

  • New Jersey: Another team that has been falling in recent years. Lou Lamarello's magic seems to have faded since the lockout. He still doesn't seem to grasp the CBA well, which is amazing since he was part of the team that drew it up. Additionally once sound ownership could now be in flux as current owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek is seeking a buyer for the franchise. On the ice the team has fallen back to Earth after a very nice 10 year run of Cup contention. Poor drafting, age and bad trades have left the Devils as a playoff bubble team at best. Additionally despite playing in a relatively new arena they had 6th worst attendance last season. Even when contending they never had strong fan support. It will be interesting to see what happens if they are forced to rebuild.

  • NY Islanders: For a variety of reasons the Isles stay in the bottom tier of our ratings. Owner Charles Wang has failed to get approval for a new arena to replace the dilapidated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.(NVMC) He probably won't leave the area, but another NY metro locale is possible down the road. Its also possible he might up and sell the team, but we wouldn't expect they'd be relocated out of NY. GM Garth Snow has quietly done a decent job of slowly resurrecting the team/improving the roster, but will need to soon make the post season after missing the past 4 years. They are also solidly on the bottom of the league in attendance 'filling' their rink at an anemic 68% of capacity.

  • Ottawa: Once a top 10 franchise back when they were a Cup contender. Owner Eugene Melnyk despite past run ins with the US SEC and Ontario Securities remains firmly in control, and thanks to the strong Canadian Dollar is no longer close to declaring bankruptcy. Our problems with Ottawa are with GM Bryan Murray who initially was the teams coach when he came into the organization in 2004 and led them to a Cup Finals in 2006. However once John Muckler was fired and Murray was promoted, the organization started a real down turn it still has yet to recover from. We question his trades and drafting adeptness. They have gone from Cup contender to playoff bubble team to now a possible bottom feeder this upcoming year. Not until Murray is replaced can we see better days in store for the nice folks in Kanata.

  • Phoenix: Poster child of dysfunctional NHL teams. Without a real owner for 2 years now, and without any real possibility of that changing going into 2011-2012. As has been the case the past 2 years, this could be the last season in the desert. In our opinion it will be. The last 2 seasons Don Maloney and Dave Tippett both have done a great job in motivating the team and allowed them to make positive strides and actually made the playoff last season. We see a step back this year if for no other reason than goaltending. Despite the better on ice product fans still stayed away (can you blame them?), giving Phoenix the 2nd worst attendance in the league last season. We believe not until the issues at the top are resolved will the Yotes (or whatever they are called next season) be able to climb out of the cellar tier in our ratings

  • St. Louis: A franchise that never can seem to get it right. Clearly a bubble team at this level. They easily could have been placed in the middle tier. They had great fan support last season. By far the best among US based teams that failed to make the post season. Despite injuries, which we acknowledge, this team has failed to make the positive strides we expected of them. They seem to be in perpetual 'rebuild mode' and by now we expected that they would at least be in the playoffs if not winning a round or two. Yet they haven't won a playoff GAME since the lockout! Add to that is the fact that they are now up for sale and unstable ownership is never a good thing for an organization. Jury still out on head coach Davis Payne and GM Doug Armstrong. If the team fails to make the post season yet again its likely both will be looking for work by next summer

  • Toronto: A shame that hockey's capital has one of the worst run franchises with the dubious record of no championships in 44+ years. As with all Canadian based teams, they have no problem with attendance/fan support. The team is owned by a teachers union so there is doubt on who actually is in charge. As a result, and because so much money is made regardless of how the team performs, there is little motivation for winning. Brian Burke was going to be the saviour when he took over 3 years ago, and thus far we don't see much improvement. In fact it could be argued things are the same. The Kessell deal was an error, and overall their farm system is devoid of quality depth at any position. Few expect the Leafs to make the post season, which would be the 7th consecutive year without a playoff game in the city that houses the NHL Hall of Fame. Yes, thats a shame.

  • Winnipeg: Are very likely in the bottom 10 for the last time for a while. Having gone from a poor sports city in Atlanta, they are now the ONLY major league team for hundreds of miles. We expect them to have no issue filling MTS Center for the next couple of seasons. With the move came total upheaval in ownership, a new GM in Kevin Cheveldayoff and head coach in Claude Noel. Noel was the former coach of the Manitoba Moose so he's not new to the area. This is Cheveldayoff's first NHL GM job, but was an asst with the Hawks prior to coming north. He is well regarded in NHL circles. The on ice talent remains largely unchanged from last season. There is potential for improvement there and its not a bad roster, but not quite yet ready to compete for a playoff spot. Time will tell if the new boss is any better then the old boss. Certainly things couldn't get worse as the Thrashers didn't win ANY playoff games in their 12 seasons in Atlanta

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