What more appropriate day to kick off Section E than on the day when the NHL and NHLPA finally skate to their respective penalty boxes after a year of Domi-vs-Probert style fisticuffs, with a new collective bargaining agreement in hand? What better time to launch this little community than on the day we learn who will win the rights to Sidney Crosby, widely touted as the next NHL phenom?
With less than two hours to go before the draft lottery, here's a look at how this will work...
There are a total of 48 chances at winning the #1 pick. Most of the NHL teams have one chance in 48. This includes the perennial playoff contenders and Washington. (I'm not entirely sure how the Caps can get snubbed after the way they played in 03-04, but I assume it is because the Caps scored the #1 pick in 2004 to get Ovechkin.) Ten teams have two chances in 48... these are Anaheim, Atlanta, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, and Phoenix. Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and ... *sigh*... the Rangers have three chances.
So where are the best places for this next superstar to land?
#1 - Calgary Flames. There is no better place on God's Green Earth for Crosby to play than on Calgary's Red Mile. The team is young, they have an impeccable leader in Jarome Iginla, they have the playoff experience, they have a Sutter behind the bench, and the city has the fire for hockey... no pun intended. As you'll recall, it didn't matter that Wayne Gretzky was in Edmonton. Everyone knew who he was, and he still brought fans to the game. That being said...
#2 - Edmonton Oilers. These guys build a playoff contender every single year, but could never afford to keep the players they brought up through the system. Under the new CBA, that all changes. If any team is destined to produce consistent winners under the new system, it is Edmonton. The Oil probably deseve Crosby more than any other team in the league, as compensation for losing the likes of Doug Weight, Curtis Joseph, Anson Carter, Mike Grier, Bill Guerin, Tom Poti, Mike Comrie, etc.
#3 - New York Rangers. It pains me to recommend the Rangers, but there are few better places to reach out to a large segment of US-based hockey fans. The trouble is, the Rangers are so chock-full of high-priced veterans, it may be a couple seasons until the Rangers + Crosby can reach their full potential under a new, hopefully faster and trapless, system. The league's situation is a little more dire than that. It needs a superstar winner as soon as possible.
#4 - Toronto Maple Leafs. Of course this is a homer pick, but as one of the few place where the fans might actually care about the game this coming season, is there a better place to start the process of rebuilding the grassroots interest in the game? Without a strong corps of young players, and with several key veterans likely to be bought out of their contracts before next weekend, the Leafs might even need this stroke of luck in order to compete next season.
#5 - Atlanta Thrashers. Imagine this lineup... Heatley, Kovalchuk, Crosby. Adding Crosby to this team could save Bettman from the huge and looming disaster that is the Southeast Division Expansion. Suddenly, the greatest offensive trio in hockey could be making the rounds in the Southeast for 4 away games each in Washington, Raleigh, Miami, and Tampa. Without something BIG happening in one of these towns, the NHL is well poised to lose at least 2 of the 5 Southeast teams before the next CBA.
And I can't leave without singling out one team as a black hole. Please, for the love of all things frozen and slippery... may Sidney Crosby not end up with...
Chicago Blackhawks. Based on the team ownership, Crosby, and hence the NHL, is likely to get the least amount of television and league exposure if he is relegated to Chicago. Granted, the team may be in good shape for the new CBA, but a leopard does not change his spots that quickly. The new NHL needs to market better and be fan-friendly... both things that the Chicago ownership has failed at miserably in recent history.
In 90 minutes, we'll learn what color jersey Crosby will wear.