I know, I know that contraction is the ugliest word we can use to talk about sports, but in the case of the NHL I think we have to at least consider it. There are a number of teams out there struggling to draw crowds, and there are a number of big market clubs that are subsidizing these teams. I have to ask wouldn’t less teams, stronger teams after a dispersal draft, make the NHL better? Wouldn’t cutting the field from 30 to say 26 teams, and the regular season a bit, and a round of the NHL playoffs not make the NHL product that much stronger?
This is a question of saturation and I think the NHL has over saturated the American Hockey Market. I don’t know if contraction is the right thing to do, but relocation certainly is. If more teams were located in NHL hot beads, or in Canada I think the NHL as a whole would be on much firmer ground. I mean does New York really need two hockey clubs?
If there were to be contraction I would estimate that the Phoenix Coyotes, Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and a few other teams would be prime candidates. Again I would like to see relocation over contraction moving the Atlanta team to Kansas City, Phoenix back to Canada, and Columbus to maybe Cleveland. Of course I am just an idiot sports writer, what do I really know?
However fewer teams would mean the salary cap for the remaining teams would likely increase, teams would have stronger rosters and the TV product would likely be a lot better. The main argument against contraction is always alienating fans. While that is true, I wonder how much alienation would go on in NHL markets where fans are already tuning out and staying away.