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Realignment key to Stars future

Citizen Journalists

Citizen Journalists

Written on Thursday, 27 October 2011 13:51

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(Michael Rozleja is an Ice-Hockey fan and BPL citizen journalist)

The Dallas Stars are nine games into their 18th NHL season, with those opening fixtures having yielded seven wins and only two losses. That record has the Stars sitting atop the Pacific division with 14 points. All should be rosy in the lone-star state, but looking beyond their on-field performance, the Stars are a franchise is dire straits.

The franchise filed bankruptcy, and was subsequently made available to the highest bidder, but the closing day for the sale passed without a bid being submitted.

Enter Tom Gaglardi.

With debts that are likely to reach $160.4 million, Dallas is a franchise on its knees. That opened the door for Gaglardi to swoop in unopposed, and pick up the club "on the cheap".

But money isn't the only reason for the Stars struggles.

Location, climate, and recent poor performances are all relevant to their crisis. Yet, with that said, Gaglardi has stated that he is committed to keeping the franchise in Dallas, resisting the lure of lucrative relocation. While it is great news for Stars fans that their team will be staying put, just how can Gaglardi turn the struggling club around?

It's a location nightmare for the NHL, that they have five southern state teams in three different divisions. Especially when you consider that the Southern regions of the United States still subscribe to the notion of Baseball being the American Pastime, while also following Football to a borderline religious extent. That puts the squeeze on Ice Hockey in typically dry, desert states.

The Southern situation is indicative of one of the issue that dogs the NHL in its entirety.

Division allocation. Countless teams - besides the Stars - locations do not match their division.

Colorado would be best described as Central America, but the Avalanche finds themselves assigned to the Northwest division. As do the Minnesota Wild, who sit slightly more northeast than West.

Division alliances may seem trivial to the casual fan, but in reality it can drastically affect the success of a franchise. Being placed in an unsuitable conference, adds to travel costs for teams, but also limits supporter base size, and fan-generated income.

Is it just a matter of time before the newly re-instated Winnipeg Jets suffers the same fate, as that which has fallen upon Dallas, with the Canadian based franchise questionably being assigned to the Southeast division?

If Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, Carolina and Florida were in a Southern Division the game could be better marketed to suit these franchises.

The NHL then has a complete package to sell to the southern public, media and business groups. Separating the franchises into different divisions is borderline suicidal by the league.

The Atlantic Division serves as one of the few examples that the NHL has got right with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, NY Rangers and NY Islanders making up the division. The Northeast is a traditional hotbed for the NHL, and has long been a geographical gold mine for the NHL and franchises. That means that franchises can actually be marketed successfully, which has resulted in these clubs having been some of the strongest, on and off the ice.

The NHL needs to re-align and rename its divisions or relocate these franchises to a more marketable location.

If new Dallas Stars owner is looking to make a real impact on the sport, he should make a major push for realignment.

If not, expect the Stars to continue to exist in a state of flux in the NHL.

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