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Mixed results: A half-century of trial and error with NHL expansion franchises

Mixed results: A half-century of trial and error with NHL expansion franchises

A largely “sink-or-swim” strategy by the NHL to its enlargement and merger franchises since 1967 has seen almost a 3rd relocated from their unique cities. However new draft guidelines and stricter area necessities are there to offer fledgling groups a higher shelf life.

Tom McVei didn’t truly coach the Washington Capitals throughout their horrific debut season 44 years in the past, however nonetheless obtained a firsthand view of their enlargement turmoil.

They’d already gone by way of three head coaches and a basic supervisor when proprietor Abe Polin requested McVei for assist partway by way of their second season in 1975-76. After a franchise-worst Eight-67-5 document the prior yr, they have been within the midst of 37 consecutive street defeats when McVie took over behind the bench.

“It was terrible, consider me,’’ stated McVie, 83, the previous Seattle Totems minor-leaguer and a longtime resident of Camas, Wash. “It was simply brutal to get pounded each night time.’’

The Capitals gained solely 11 occasions that second season, offering a future showcase for why Nationwide Hockey League enlargement guidelines ultimately modified. The Vegas Golden Knights making the Stanley Cup ultimate final season got here after a half-century of a principally sink-or-swim strategy to enlargement franchises.

“To see what occurred with Vegas is simply unbelievable,’’ McVei stated. “They gave them some gamers that may play. They didn’t give us any. We didn’t have any gamers that would play for a great group like Montreal again then.’’

McVie stated Polin was ready to provide the franchise again to the league till the Caps improved barely, profitable 41 video games the subsequent two seasons mixed earlier than McVie was fired.

He turned a coach of the Winnipeg Jets and GM of the New Jersey Devils and continues to scout for the Boston Bruins, incomes his first Stanley Cup ring with them in 2011 — seven years earlier than the Capitals gained their first championship.

NHL followers sometimes view enlargement as what occurred following the “Unique Six’’ period — which started when the 1942 demise of the Brooklyn People left the league with simply the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Pink Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Bruins the subsequent 25 years.

Lastly, in 1967-68, NHL house owners undertook the most important enlargement in professional sports activities, doubling to 12 groups. It vaulted skilled hockey to new prominence and the league will develop to 32 groups when Seattle launches in 2021.

However enlargement hasn’t all the time gone easily.

Of 22 enlargement franchises since 1967, 5 relocated and a type of later folded. 4 groups additionally have been added by way of a 1979-80 “merger’’ with the now-defunct World Hockey Affiliation — the Hartford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers, Jets and Quebec Nordiques — and solely the Oilers haven’t relocated.

With almost a 3rd of NHL enlargement and merger franchises failing of their unique markets, potential house owners now demand extra favorable guidelines to compete quicker. In any case, they’ve had 50 years of trial and error to study from.


Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, California Seals and Minnesota North Stars added

Upon this primary enlargement foray, the NHL cut up the league into two divisions — permitting one to consist totally of first-year groups — and had the winners of every meet for the Stanley Cup. This created the doubtful state of affairs of an enlargement group, the Blues, coached by up-and-comer Scotty Bowman and that includes ex-Seattle Totems star Noel Picard on protection, reaching the ultimate their first three years.

However the Blues went Zero-12 in finals video games, have been outscored 43-17 and brought on the NHL to vary its Cup qualifying format.

The Flyers have been this enlargement’s success. With former Seattle Ironmen defenseman Fred Shero as coach and ex-Totems coach Keith Allen as GM, the brawling “Broad Road Bullies’’ gained two Stanley Cup titles within the mid-1970s and have since made the finals six extra occasions.

“Enjoying there was the most important honor of my profession,’’ stated Aberdeen, Wash., native Wayne Hicks, 81, a member of the debut-year enlargement Flyers coached by Allen and the franchise’s first U.S.-born participant. “You felt like a pioneer at occasions. Every little thing we did was about promoting the sport, and the followers actually responded properly.’’

The Penguins have 4 Stanley Cup titles — two greater than the Flyers — and misplaced one other remaining. However it took them 23 years to win a championship after staving off chapter and relocation rumors.

The horrible Seals relocated to Cleveland because the “Barons’’ in 1976 earlier than folding and merging gamers into the North Stars. Minnesota’s franchise almost folded earlier than the 1978 merger, then made the ultimate in 1980-81 and 1990-91, earlier than relocating to Dallas in 1993 when it couldn’t safe a brand new area.

Lastly, the Los Angeles Kings noticed ex-Seattle Totems winger and present Washington resident Howie Hughes rating their first objective at The “Fabulous” Discussion board in January 1968. However they didn’t attain the Cup remaining till their 25th season in 1992-93 after importing Wayne Gretzky in 1988 within the largest commerce in NHL historical past. They lastly gained the Cup in 2011-12 and in 2013-14.

“It’s certainly one of my proudest moments,’’ stated Tim Leiweke, the Kings president for his or her first championship and now heading the Oak View Group firm conducting the KeyArena renovation for Seattle’s incoming staff. “That one was a very long time in coming.’’


Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks added

This enlargement labored nicely, although neither workforce has a championship in almost 50 years of play. Buffalo made the ultimate in Yr 5 in 1974-75 behind its “French Connection” line of Gilbert Perrault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert. The Sabres misplaced the 1998-99 remaining to Dallas on a Brett Hull “in-the-crease’’ triple-overtime winner in Recreation 6 — probably the most controversial non-penalty-call in NHL historical past.

The Canucks picked ex-Seattle Totems stalwart Orland Kurtenbach as their first captain and weren’t recognized for a lot till surprisingly making the ultimate towards the dynastic Islanders in 1981-82. They’ve since participated in two memorable seven-game championship collection towards the Rangers in 1993-94 and Boston in 2010-11.


New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames added

The Islanders underneath GM Invoice Torrey reached the playoffs their third yr and gained 4 consecutive Stanley Cup titles beginning in 1979-80 with six future Corridor of Fame gamers and coach Al Arbour. After reaching their fifth consecutive ultimate in 1984, they’ve by no means been again. Beset by monetary woes, they left Lengthy Island, N.Y., for Brooklyn in 2015. They plan a 2021 transfer right into a Belmont Park Area challenge in Elmont, N.Y., that Leiweke’s Oak View Group is partnering on.

Flames’ followers gave a standing ovation for the primary icing name of the workforce’s 1972 house opener. It was all downhill from there support-wise regardless of the Flames making the playoffs of their second season and 6 of eight campaigns. They relocated to Calgary in 1980.


Washington Capitals and Kansas Metropolis Scouts added

Their years-long enlargement woes well-documented, the Capitals turned a perennial playoff group by the 1980s. They reached their first Stanley Cup ultimate in 1997-98 and 20 years later captured their first championship over the Golden Knights.

Kansas Metropolis relocated to Colorado after two seasons. The Rockies, equally disastrous, moved to New Jersey after the 1981-82 season and have become the Devils.


San Jose Sharks added

Bolstered by 15 gamers from the Minnesota North Stars after an proprietor swap, they nonetheless gained an abysmal 28 video games their first two seasons. However they made the playoffs their third and fourth campaigns beneath future Everett Silvertips junior coach Kevin Constantine and have missed the playoffs solely 4 occasions the previous 24 years — albeit making the Cup last simply as soon as in 2015-16.

Among the many franchise’s greats is former Seattle Thunderbirds junior star Patrick Marleau.


Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning added

Ottawa adopted the identify of the town’s perennial Stanley Cup group from many years earlier, however went 10-70-Four their debut season and gained simply 33 video games its first three years — 10 fewer than the enlargement Caps that very same time-frame. The Senators made the Stanley Cup ultimate in 2006-07, however are an ongoing small-market concern when it comes to competitiveness.

Tampa Bay missed the playoffs 9 of its first 10 seasons, however gained a championship in 2004 earlier than teetering financially. New proprietor Jeff Vinik and CEO Tod Leiweke turned the enterprise round and received the squad again to the ultimate in 2015.


Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Geese added

The Panthers had the most effective first season ever on the time, going 33-34-17, and made the Stanley Cup ultimate their third yr. However they’ve made the playoffs solely 4 occasions in 22 years since and have been an ongoing relocation candidate.

Anaheim’s franchise, constructed off a well-liked Walt Disney Co. film starring Emilio Estevez, was thought-about a gimmick staff after making the playoffs simply twice their first 9 seasons. However they reached the Stanley Cup last in 2002-03. After a sale of the workforce by Disney to Henry and Susan Samueli, the “Mighty” a part of its identify was dropped forward of 2006-07 and the Geese beat Ottawa for his or her first Cup title that season.


Nashville Predators added

The Predators missed the playoffs their first 5 seasons, however took off as the town of Nashville exploded business-wise. The Predators missed the playoffs solely 3 times the subsequent 14 years and reached their first Cup ultimate in 2016-17.


Atlanta Thrashers added

The Atlanta enlargement mistake from the 1970s was repeated, with the Thrashers once more enjoying to empty seats. Went simply 14-57-7 their inaugural season and reached the playoffs as soon as in 11 seasons earlier than relocating to Winnipeg in 2011.


Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets added

Present Seattle staff CEO Tod Leiweke was president of the Wild its enlargement yr when GM Doug Risebrough employed former Montreal teammate Jacques Lemaire as coach. “We knew we have been going to finish up with a workforce that’s not what we might think about the most effective, so we would have liked a implausible and skilled coach,’’ Leiweke stated of Lemaire, who’d coached New Jersey to a title in 1995.

Lemaire received the Wild into the convention championship his third season, serving to followers reconnect with the NHL, although the group has but to go that deep once more.

Columbus didn’t make the playoffs till its eighth season, going to the convention remaining. The Blue Jackets have had solely three playoff appearances since, although they did have two prior to now two years and a 50-victory marketing campaign in 2016-17.


Vegas Golden Knights added

With a positive enlargement draft and shrewd trades by GM George McPhee, the Knights surprised the sports activities world by reaching the Cup remaining earlier than dropping to Washington. Their off-ice exploits noticed them play to packed homes at their foremost area and apply facility.