An NHL franchise in a non-traditional hockey market faced financial troubles and was moved. No, not the Coyotes. They're still a mess. And they might be the Seattle Coyotes real soon....or something.
The Atlanta Thrashers had a poor drawing for much of their time in the NHL. In fact they're average attendance figures not only never cracked the top 10, they never cracked the bottom 10. (http://espn.go.com/nhl/attendance). When you're first year is as bad (14-57-12) as that awful inaugural Ottawa Senators season, it doesn't generate a whole lot of excitement. And from their doomed first season the team never really caught on. I'm sure there are some die-hard Thrashers fans that are sitting in bars drinking and crying, but not enough of them were crying AT the games.
Regardless of the standings the team had tragedy on their hands early on when Dany Heatley crashed that car that killed up and coming star Dan Snyder. Then Heatley was dealt to Ottawa and the Thrashers got Marian Hossa. Then Hossa left. And Kovalchuk left. And Konowalchuk retired and they were left with no under rated genuine superstar for the last 2 years. Their best goaltender ever might have been super journeyman Johan Hedburg. How sad is that?
And so the team is relocating like a thief in the night. There was about 3 months of Tom Glavine clamoring for a new ownership group to keep the team in Atlanta and then *POOF* there were the Jets in Winnipeg. The saga of the Phoenix Coyotes tricked us all into thinking there would be years of drama and money problems before any team would leave, and that lulled us all into believing that there was no immediacy in relocations. And now? No one is sure what the freaking hold up in Phoenix is.
I'm all for the overall health of the NHL. I would like to see all 30 teams with a rabid and healthy fanbase, because watching games in empty barns is depressing. I'm all for there being a Winnipeg Jets again. I'm just not sure how I feel about the Atlanta Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets or as they're being called up there the Jets 2.0.
But what exactly will the Jets 2.0 be? Will they be the same sad sack sorry team the Thrashers were? Will they be the same sad sack team the Jets 1.0 were? Will any of that matter in Canada?
I'm left with a lot of questions I just can not answer such as: Will the new Jets be worth a shit or just another Edmonton Oilers? Will the fans show up even though the Jets might suck? Will Atlanta ever get another team? Will that team also be the Thrashers? How long will we have to wait to buy bargain basement Thrashers sweaters?
But here's the real important question: Can True North navigate a mediocre at best team into the new era of the NHL and lead them to victory?
I feel bad for Atlanta hockey fans just as I felt bad for Minnesota hockey fans when the North Stars left. Which reminds me: How healthy is the future for the Dallas Stars?
With franchises uprooting so easily it begs the question of how safe is any team in financial trouble? Will we see Columbus, Phoenix, Dallas, Florida, or even Edmonton moving in the next five years? What does that do to the overall landscape of the NHL?