Happy Memorial Day

My thoughts are with those who have lost a family member, spouse, sibling, or other relative or close friend while that person was serving our nation in the military. I think of all of those who have died in combat, and those who are currently serving in our military throughout the world on Memorial Day.

My father, my uncle, two of my brothers-in-law, my father in law, and both my grandfathers have served in the military and in the case of my brothers-in-law are still serving in the military. I think of them every year at Memorial Day too and appreciate their willingness to serve in the armed forces.

My father always instilled that love of our country in me as a boy. He would put out and bring in the American flag every day, it hung on a pole next to our front porch growing up. He always told me that Memorial Day was not about barbecues, going to the movies, or watching a baseball game. It was about those who served and gave their lives so that we could live in freedom.

That has resonated with me for the rest of my life. I always try to thank a military service member for their service when I see them in public. I know that without their service, both past and present, the world would be a much darker and different place.

I am a student of history, so I know that our country has faced some difficult wars with huge consequences for the entire world.  We were faced with the threat of dictators and tyrants in our history. We have helped to defend the rights of those throughout the world and advance freedom and liberty to those who were living in horrible conditions.

So as I wind down the week, and have other assignments to complete, I just wanted to take a moment and write this post. When you are out this weekend, please take some time to think about the sacrifice of our military men and women both past and present. Our lives would be dramatically different without their service and for some the sacrifice of the their lives to secure freedom for future generations.

The New York Knicks: The Run is Over

The New York Knicks saw their season come to a sudden and disappointing conclusion on Saturday night with a loss in Indiana to the Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Instead of writing an article about an exciting, decisive Game 7 tonight; I am writing about the end of this season and will look ahead to next season.


Game 6 – A Loss and Disappointment


The Knicks, their fans, and everyone involved in the organization cannot be happy with the way this series and this season ended. In Game 6, the Knicks dug themselves too deep a hole to climb out of, and when they did mount the 13 point comeback in the 3rd Quarter, it went steadily downhill from that point.


I know some fans want to blame Carmelo Anthony, and I really do not think that you can place all the blame on him. I find it hard to put the blame on a player that scored so many points in a close out game on the road, even though I know he disappeared again down the stretch in the 4th Quarter (2-7 shooting).


I think the entire team fell short in many different ways in this series. The Pacers are a very good defensive team, and the Knicks really struggled to score points, and that was the one major difference in the series.


We all thought this team would be in the Conference Finals against the Heat. I was really looking forward to that series, and I know my fellow Knicks fans were as well.


The Turning Point: Hibbert blocks Carmelo


The turning point in this game was the play where Roy Hibbert blocked the layup by Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks were not the same team from that point forward down the stretch in the 4th quarter.


You have to hand it to the Pacers for having a good solid game plan for how they would match up against the Knicks, and they executed it on both sides of the ball. You could also make the case that the Knicks lost this series by losing Game 1 because had that game gone in the Knicks favor, they would have held a 2 games to 0 advantage when the series shifted to Indianapolis, and it is a very different series at that point.


However, the Knicks did not win this series, and it is time to look ahead to next season. The Pacers will move forward to face the Miami Heat, which is going to be a tall order for the Pacers at this point.


What now? Offseason questions


The Knicks have several questions looming ahead this offseason. The team does not have much room under the salary cap for next year, and they have to make a decision on J.R. Smith (it is widely assumed he is going to decline the option on his contract and test free agency) or he could decide to negotiate a longer term deal with the Knicks.


I think the Knicks need to re-sign Smith because they will be hard pressed to find a free agent secondary scoring player like him on the open market with their current salary cap space.


The Knicks front office also has to make free agency decisions on Chris Copeland, Prigioni, and decide what to do with point guard Jason Kidd. The team has many key questions which will be answered in the months to come. It will be interesting.


One Perspective: My own


I have several opinions of what the Knicks need to do or should do in the offseason, as a fan of this team for many years. I think that they should bring back J.R. Smith, that they should use Amare more extensively either on the front line or as the primary scorer on the second unit, and that they need another big front court player.


Now, I know that front court player is going to be difficult to add given the variables I stated earlier in this post, but I think they should add someone and it is not Kenyon Martin. If they do not buy out Marcus Camby, then that role could conceivably be filled by him if they had no other options.


Furthermore, I think that the Knicks can bring back Prigioni and Copeland without an issue, and that they need to add a player or two to get a little bit younger.

In the end, the Knicks are going to return much the same team as the version we saw this year. My fear, and I think Knicks fans will agree, is that it will not be enough to compete with a revamped Eastern Conference featuring a fully healthy Chicago Bulls team, the ever present Heat, and some other improving teams. In that case, it will be another season where any progression in the playoffs for the Knicks could be a very difficult task.

New York Knicks: Big Game 5 Victory

The New York Knicks wrapped up a big victory on their home floor in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final Series against the Indiana Pacers. It was a much needed victory which pushes the series to a Game 6 tomorrow night in Indianapolis. In my previous posts on this series for “Frank’s Forum” we looked at many aspects of the preparation by both teams for this game. In particular, the Knicks being in such a big hole in the series, I detailed some of the adjustments they needed to make in order to win against the Pacers in Game 5.


This article will review the Knicks performance in Game 5 and a look ahead to Game 6, and what they will need to do to force a decisive Game 7.  The home crowd was treated to a big win last night; the Knicks made a number of key adjustments and made better shot selection in this game.


Adjustments made: A Solid Game Plan


I have to credit Coach Woodson and Knicks coaching staff for implementing a very good game plan complete with several adjustments which allowed them to perform much better in Game 5. The players deserve the credit for executing that game plan and pushing the series longer against a Pacers team which historically has trouble with closing out opponents in the playoffs.


The pressure in a lot of ways is still on the Pacers in this series because they had a 3 games to 1 advantage, and they are playing Game 6 on their home court.  The Knicks are coming in with a win in Game 5, and then they have to play a Game 6 on the road where they can come out flying to take the Pacers home crowd out of the game.


My previous blog post detailed the adjustments that the Knicks needed to make in order to win Game 5 and here is my feedback on those adjustments:

  1. Rebounds: the Knicks hit the boards last night especially in critical points of the game when the Pacers were trying to slice into their lead. That was critical to let the Pacers know that they could not push the Knicks around and dominate this series.
  2. Shot selection: the Knicks tightened up their shot selection and then using crisper passing to open up clean, high quality shots. J.R. Smith looked more efficient last night, and Carmelo Anthony had a workmanlike 20+ point performance.
  3. Rotation: I liked the rotation changes that Woodson made last night. He utilized Prigioni and Copeland well, and he utilized good substitutions to match up against the Pacers lineup changes. The floor spacing was pretty good overall last night, and it helped by having other perimeter shooters to open up lanes for Anthony and Smith to drive to the rim.
  4. Ball Movement: The ball movement was crisp and well executed for the most part last night. The Knicks moved the ball around the perimeter well and got the ball into the post when they needed to effectively. I think the rest of my fellow Knicks fans would agree on this point.
  5. Aggressive play: the Knicks were much more aggressive last night in driving the ball to the rim, and also in taking the ball away from the Pacers and catching them flat going the other way in transition. They used some other elements of their offense which opened up clean shots such as the pick and roll and some ball screens as well.
  6. Less isolation plays: the Knicks still used a good amount of isolation plays but I guess that large portion of their offense is difficult to pull out in the middle of a series. Smith was given some freedom to find his own shot, and Anthony is left in isolation every game at multiple points.
  7. The Indiana Pacers perimeter shooting: I think the Knicks did a great job of denying the Pacers and their perimeter shooting. They worked hard on the defensive end and constantly switched other defenders onto a shooter to deny the open 3 point shot at many points last night.


Game 6 Preview- Formula for a Knicks Win

In order for the Knicks to win in Game 6 out in Indiana, it is important for them to remain composed in a tough road environment. I also believe that in Game 5 it was a very positive development that they had a lead in this game and did not have to play from behind.


It is very important for the Knicks to stay out of foul trouble in order to keep their best players on the floor. They can deny the Pacers the 3 point attempts and then stay aggressive, and I think they can keep this game close. If they can get big performances from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, I think that the Knicks have made great adjustments and have to stick with that plan.


Ultimately, the Knicks could win this game on the road if they play smart, select their shots well, and balance the floor. I hope we get to see a decisive Game 7 at the Garden on Monday. Only time will tell.


The Knicks and a Giant Hole – Their Playoff Struggles Continue

The New York Knicks dug themselves a giant hole in their Eastern Conference semi-final playoff series with the Indiana Pacers by losing Game 4 last night in Indianapolis. The Knicks now trail 3 games to 1 in this best of seven games series. In my last blog post I took a look at the Knicks performance in Game 3 and provided some adjustments they needed to make in order to win Game 4.

This blog post will take a similar format by looking at Game 4 and then looking ahead to Game 5, which is tomorrow night at MSG. The Knicks must win Game 5 to stay alive and force a Game 6 on Saturday in Indiana. If they do not find a way to win tomorrow, their season, and those sky high expectations will be over.


What went wrong in Game 4?

The issues with Game 4 for the Knicks were simple, they did not rebound the ball again in their defensive end of the floor, and they did not make enough shots when they had to at critical junctures in this game.

In my last post, I outlined the need for the Knicks to rebound the basketball, and they did not do that well at all in the game last night. I know with the Pacers height advantage they will be hard pressed to get more rebounds than their opponent, but they need to make an effort to not allow the Pacers second chance scoring opportunities.

I wrote that turnovers were going to be critical in this game, and limiting them for the Knicks would be a positive. I also wrote that I would be surprised if the Knicks had another high turnover performance in back to back games. I was right, the Knicks won the turnover battle finishing at +8 for the game last night. Now, I know some fans may not care about the turnover situation because the Knicks still lost the game, but allow me to frame that in a different perspective. Imagine the scenario of the Knicks being minus 4 in turnovers, this game would have been a complete blowout win for Indiana. That type of dominant win would have really tipped the balance of the series to Indiana going into tomorrow night’s Game 5. In this case, the Knicks winning the turnover battle kept the final score respectable and let the Pacers know that they are really going to have a huge task on their hands to win Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.


Shot Selection

I knew that shot selection was going to be critical in this game, however, the critical point to make here is that I think the Knicks improved their shot selection overall from Game 3 to Game 4: the problem was the shots they took did not go in the basket. These missed shots are an obviously huge problem. I like how J.R. Smith has taken the responsibility here telling the media today that it is his fault for the team being down in this series. I respect a player for taking it on the chin, and while he is a big part of the problem the Knicks find themselves in at this point, he is not the only one to blame. The whole team is not playing well offensively. How do these problems get fixed?


Adjustments for Game 5

1. better ball movement – the Knicks have to pass the ball better and get back to the team that won 50+ regular season games

2. More motion on the offense – the men without the ball have to move around more and make the Pacers work on the defensive end. That will create more open shots which are high quality.

3. Less isolation plays – they have to limit the number of iso – plays for Anthony and Smith in their offense but those two guys need to score more for them to win this series but I think changing other elements will allow for better offensive production than isolation plays at this point.

4. More aggressive play on offense – attack the rim. I wrote this prior to Game 4 and the Knicks did not do much of this at all which surprised me. They need to use Felton differently and attack the rim to create better scoring chances. They also need to use more pick and roll as well as ball screens to be more effective against the Pacers.

5. Adjust their defensive plan: initially the plan for the Knicks defensively was to collapse the paint and clog those lanes and that area of the floor because the Pacers were not known to be a good perimeter shooting team. In this series so far, the Pacers have hurt the Knicks with hitting open 3 point shots from the perimeter. The Knicks have to adjust and deny the perimeter shot and let the Pacers try and beat them by forcing the ball inside to Hibbert (who was 2 for 8 last night from the field) or David West. An idea on limiting the 3 point shooting is to take a similar approach to how the Spurs limited Stephen Curry of the Warriors in their series. They constantly rotate an extra defender so that if the Warriors set a pick or a screen for Curry, another Spurs defender slides over and guards against the clean look from 3 point range.

6. The rotation – the Knicks should look at redistribution of minutes and play guys like Prigioni, Copeland, and Novak more to get legitimate 3 point shooting threats on the floor, which will also open up the floor for Carmelo and J.R. Smith to find better scoring opportunities attacking the basket.


Garden Party in Game 5?

I think the Knicks have a chance to win Game 5 and hang in this series if they implement some of these adjustments to their strategy in this series. It is going to be an intense night at MSG, and I hope it will not be the last time that “The World’s Most Famous Arena” will be hosting a Knicks playoff game. I hope the Knicks can push this at least to a Game 7, but we will have to watch and hope that will happen.

The Knicks and a Gut Check Game

The New York Knicks dropped Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series with the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night, and now trail the best of seven series 2 games to 1. The Knicks now face a “must win” or as their players have called it a “gut check” game tomorrow night in Indianapolis.


This post on “Frank’s Forum” will look at the issues from Game 3 and what I view, as a long time fan of the Knicks, as the adjustments that should be made for Game 4 tomorrow night.


Game 3: A Look Back


In order to move forward, sometimes you need to look back, and the lackluster effort the Knicks provided in Game 3 is one that they would probably just assume forget. However, they did some things that are concerning that merit some review here.


First, the Knicks did not get any rebounds in their defensive end of the floor. The Pacers would miss a shot and then get the offensive rebound and get second chance opportunities to score. I understand that the Pacers have a bigger lineup especially in the frontcourt, and the Knicks are playing their small lineup rather than playing two big players, but the Knicks have to clean this up in Game 4.


Next, the Knicks had a good defensive game plan overall in Game 3 because the Pacers shot 35% from the floor in the game. It was all the Pacers active work on the boards getting offensive rebounds and extra possessions that made the difference in the game.


Then, the Knicks uncharacteristically turned the ball over more than they usually do in Game 3, they appeared sloppy in certain possessions, and the Pacers took advantage of those turnovers. Entering Game 3, the Knicks had the lowest turnovers per game average in the NBA, so it was very strange to see them turn the ball over in the manner that they did on Saturday night. I would be surprised if they had consecutive games of high turnovers.


The other issue was shot selection, the story around the Knicks today at practice was the comments made by Tyson Chandler after the game, I will paraphrase: the Knicks are too selfish with the ball offensively. While he was clearly frustrated after a loss, and should have maybe kept those comments inside until they had a team meeting; I tend to agree with Chandler.


I am a huge Carmelo Anthony fan, he is my favorite player, but I do tend to criticize the Knicks for running too many isolation plays for him and for J.R. Smith. I understand that Carmelo’s role is to score, but if other guys have open looks, I would rather see him pass the ball to an open shooter with a clean look.  Now, J.R. Smith is an entirely different situation, he has played very inconsistently in this recent stretch of games and has not looked right since missing the game in the Boston series where he was suspended for elbowing Jason Terry.


The Knicks shot selection in Game 3 was very erratic, and very different from their normal game plan and offensive strategy. It was one of the reasons they lost that night in Indiana. Smith is hoisting shots from deep 3 point range, Jason Kidd is taking bad shots, and Anthony was forcing shots from all over the floor.


Finally, the Knicks got eaten alive by Hibbert in the paint in Game 3, it is my understanding watching the post game coverage on MSG Network, that the Knicks intended to trap Hibbert, but they were never in the right position defensively to trap him and help Chandler.


Game 4: A look ahead and adjustments needed

The Knicks need to make adjustments for Game 4 tomorrow including:

  1. Getting rebounds in their defensive end of the floor and not allowing the Pacers second chance shots and extra possessions
  2. They have to move the ball and pass it cleaner and limit turnovers
  3. The Knicks have to push the ball and get run outs when they can and take advantage of the Pacers bigger, slower players by getting out on fast breaks
  4. The Knicks have to be more aggressive offensively, they have to use Felton more effectively driving the ball to the rim and then kicking to open shooters or Felton scoring the ball, they need to use the pick and roll and screen and roll much more in Game 4.
  5. The Knicks have to use better shot selection in order to win tomorrow night – less isolation plays for Anthony and Smith – and use their strengths more effectively.
  6. The Knicks have to limit Hibbert and either trap him or rotate another big player on the frontline to help Chandler especially early in the game to try and take Hibbert out of the flow of the game.


If the Knicks can make some of these adjustments they should win Game 4 and get back to New York with the series even when they host Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. If not, and they trail this series going to Game 5, they will have much worse problems ahead.

Competitive Analysis – A Guide for Your Small Business

The competitive analysis is a very valuable component of the marketing strategy for any small business. The major barrier to market penetration for a small business is their respective competition. The competitive analysis accomplishes that very simple function: to analyze your competition in your marketplace.


This article will draw upon my previous experience in marketing and business development across a range of industries. In a couple of different stops in the course of my marketing career I was called upon to develop a competitive analysis. I have also crafted the competitive analysis as part of a larger business plan.


Furthermore, my experience also includes identifying the competitive advantage for a few different companies and crafting that advantage into a marketing strategy to develop new business.


Studying your competitors – gathering key data


The first step in the compilation of the competitive analysis is to identify and study your competition. That process can include studying their respective web site, researching the background of the company and the key executives, and searching the web for any recent news about each competitor.


Some other companies I have worked with look into the financial information available for a given competitor, but in a small business setting this information is very often not disclosed to the public, so I do not think it would apply in many situations.


Then, identify the strengths and weakness of your competitors, one by one, and enter that information into a chart or an Excel spreadsheet. This way you can review the information and determine whether the competitor has a distinct advantage over your small business.


Conversely, you can also identify through your research, the advantage that you have over your competitors in the marketplace. Once you have identified that advantage, you can proceed with developing the strategy that will provide the best opportunity for capturing potential new business.


Barriers to prevent competition and common weaknesses


In my experience, I have worked with companies and designed documents that in the planning stages they would all mention the barriers to preventing competition in your market. However, in today’s rapidly changing world, I am not sure how many barriers really could block a competitor from entering a particular business market.


Some of those potential barriers could be if it is a niche market and the level of specialization is too intricate for a potential start up business to enter the space. They would have a lack of qualified personnel to attract and hire with knowledge of the market. I have experience working in a niche market, where I observed that situation with new smaller companies trying to break into the market.


If the product you are producing in the market has particular methods or processes which your company has obtained patents for, then that could be a potential barrier to a new player in the market. In the same way, we have seen products improved from the original patented version, so I am not sure how prohibitive that barrier potentially can be to a competitor.


I could see, depending on the business and the industry it operates within, that the startup costs could be a potential barrier to the formation of another competitor, or could affect the potency of that competitor to have an impact on the market.


The opposite is also true, if the market is too crowded with competition that could be a barrier for a new company weighing whether to enter the mix, with a high amount of competition it may not make sense for a new company to pursue market entry.


Some of the common weaknesses of companies are: their reputation, their customer service performance, their marketing program, the quality of their product, the quality control of their product, and the management of their company.


What are you competing for?

Some companies compete for dollars, others compete for market share, but in small business you are competing for your own survival.



Your small business is competing everyday for the same projects or business opportunities as your respective competitors for the ability to grow the business and gain another precious commodity: a stellar reputation.



In order to fully analyze your business versus your competitors business, you have to have a very strong knowledge of your competitor’s strategy for business development. In my experience, in each role I have had in my career, I have studied the way the competition does business in the marketplace.



Some companies focus on competing on price and will do anything, including diminishing the quality of their product or service to try and grow business through price slashing methods. This is a critical factor for your business to understand and also compose a strategy to deal with this type of competitor. This is especially true if you are not willing to diminish your product’s quality to solely compete on price.


Other competitors will focus on a different growth strategy such as having great technical staff which can “custom build” a product or service to suit the needs of the customers in your marketplace. In short, you have to know each competitors particular competitive advantage and come up with a strategy to offset it.



Identify the Key Weakness of your Competitor


The knowledge of your competition also must include knowing their respective key weakness. Each company has a particular weakness that you must be aware of as you market your product or service in a competitive business environment. I worked for a company in the medical field where we knew that our product had a better formulary status than their product. Therefore, our product was available to the patient at a better price.


It is incumbent upon your small business to learn the key weakness of the companies in your market and to determine ways to interject that into the competitive business environment. However, I caution you that in my experience, I never liked “bashing the competition” I do not think it works and I also do not think the customers like bashing the competition. So it has to be used subtly and in a rather diplomatic manner to be utilized correctly.


Key Customer Motivation Point


It is also very important to know your customers and their key motivation point. If your company does not understand the motivation for your customers, it can lose a significant amount of potential business.


I worked for a company where we knew that the key customer motivation point was price. We tried to compete in some product lines, and in other product lines we made the decision that we would not diminish the quality of our product to compete in certain segments of the marketplace. Your company would have to weigh the costs of developing an alternative product line from scratch versus how much business you could bring in from that particular market segment. You will find sometimes it does not make sense to “be all things to all people”.


Your company must have an identified Competitive Advantage for each product line or market where you have a position within. It must be very concise and succinct and it can be incorporated into your business plan, your marketing plan, and also be featured in sales presentations to potential customers.


In order to completely understand your Competitive Advantage, it will take a long look internally into your business. It needs to be an honest assessment in order to be an effective tool to implement within your marketing operation. This can be difficult for some companies to do, so you may need to consider hiring an outside consultant on a per diem basis to come in and review your operation to complete the Competitive Advantage process.



Key Costs of the product or service in your markets


Another part of the competitive analysis is to understand the key costs of the product or service in your markets.   You must know the entire picture surrounding any outside factors which may affect the costs of your product or service. This may include commodity products that may be affected by ingredients that may come in from other countries. The currency exchange rates could affect the key costs of the ingredients in your product.


Your company must be able to adapt to these changing conditions in order to keep the costs of your product or service within reasonable boundaries.



Summing It All Up


The marketing strategy for competitive advantage should be a comprehensive look into your business and that of the competition in your market. It should take into account the areas in which I mentioned earlier in this article. Your company needs to understand how your competition works relative to their pricing, distribution, and how they promote their business or products.


The competitive analysis for your company can be done well if it is a concerted effort to put together a complete review of the competitors in your marketplace. I hope that this article will help you in this endeavor.






NHL Realignment – A Look Ahead to Next Season

The NHL recently announced that they have realigned the league into a new format to group their franchises in a more geographically logical manner. This new organization of the league changes the number of divisions from six divisions to four divisions, two in each conference.


The Eastern Conference will have two divisions with eight teams in each division. The Western Conference also will have two divisions, with seven teams in each division. The obvious first point of difference is that the East will have two more teams than the West will have, 16 to 14.


However, the league will keep the playoff spots fixed at 16 with eight teams in each conference making the playoffs. This creates a scenario where the teams in the Western Conference will have an easier path to the playoffs with fewer teams in their respective conference.  This is a key point which has been made on sites such as espn.com, cbssports.com, nbcsports.com, and the Bleacher Report site.


The Details

The realignment plan passed by both the NHL Board of Governors and the players union is organized in the following conference and divisional format:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division: NY Rangers, NY Islanders, NJ Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.


Central Division: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers.


Western Conference

Midwest Division: Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and Dallas Stars.


Pacific Division: Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, L.A. Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Phoenix Coyotes.


Changes and their Effects

The immediate changes are obvious, the Winnipeg Jets move to the Western Conference (they were in the East due to the relocation of the team from Atlanta) so that makes sense. The Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets move from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference, which both teams have been lobbying for years to switch conferences. It was very hard for the fans of those two teams to watch nearly every road game being played in a different time zone.


The way the playoff teams are selected is different also. In the new realigned format, the top three teams in each division get into the playoffs and then the remaining playoff positions in each conference go to the teams with the next best records in succession. This format means that one division could send up to five teams to the playoffs. In that scenario, all five teams would be reasonably close geographically. That could produce later round playoff series which have only regional appeal, not broad based national appeal, which could hurt TV ratings.


Effect on Rivalries

The effect on rivalries from this new realigned NHL is an issue with two distinct camps. The first camp believes that the breakup of the Original Six rivalry between Chicago and Detroit is a big mistake, and that the new format puts teams together in the same division with no real history between them. They believe that the realignment plan ruins the rivalries in the NHL.

The other camp believes that the new format will increase the rivalries due to the geographic closeness of most of the teams in the new 4 division format. This camp also believes that having five of the Original Six teams now in the East and playing against each other more often will increase those rivalries.

My view is somewhere in between these two camps. On the one hand, I think the Western Conference has some issues with building rivalries; and has more risk as far as selling tickets at the gate for some undesirable matchups than the East does at this point. I also believe that Chicago is the lone really good draw for a box office in the new Midwest division.

The Winnipeg franchise has no real history with anyone out in the Western Conference, though many insiders believe that the NHL is going to push a Winnipeg vs. Minnesota Wild rivalry in the future. I could see some of the Canadian teams in the west really developing some strong, competitive rivalries between them in the future.

In the east, I think that the move of Detroit is a great decision; I have been waiting for the NHL to do this for a long time. The Red Wings against teams such as Montreal, the Rangers, and the Boston Bruins are going to be very good games. The move of Columbus is going to be strange because they have always been in the west since joining the league, and it is going to be weird for fans in the east to see the Blue Jackets more often.

Another big potential issue being widely reported by sports media outlets is that the owners of both Florida franchises are not happy about being placed in the “Central” division. The travel costs associated for just the games played within their own division alone is going to be rather costly, to state nothing of the games against the teams in the west.

The Eastern Conference rivalries are going to be great between: the Rangers and the Capitals, the Devils and the Hurricanes. They have several geographic rivalries which will work well for them.

I also think that each team visiting every other arena in the league is a very positive development for hockey. It will be great for the fans in other markets out west to see Sidney Crosby and some of the other stars that they did not have the opportunity to see every year in the old format.


Expansion and the potential impact on this plan

It is no secret that the biggest issue in the lockout between the NHL players and owners was solely about money, and the subsequent split of the revenue pie. The rumors flying at the time were that the NHL was quietly testing the waters of expansion in order to generate more revenue for the “pie”.

The NHL is the fourth sport of the “Big 4”, but where the NHL is much different than the other leagues is it has a large presence in Canada, with very successful franchises up north as well. So, where other major American sports are not considering expansion based on the state of the economy, the NHL has an advantage with the option for Canadian expansion.

The league would probably expand by two teams to make it a 32 team league. The markets that are connected most often with expansion are Quebec City and Markham (or some other suburb of Toronto). The NHL has waited a long time to add a second team to Toronto, which is the largest hockey market in the world. The Quebec City bid for a team is strengthened by the fact that the government there approved, and is currently constructing a brand new arena in the hopes of getting an expansion or relocated NHL team.

The revenue injection from two additional teams plus their expansion fees would provide a big boost to the financial health of some of the established small market teams in the league.

However, that creates some problems with the new system because if both teams are added in eastern Canada, then the Eastern Conference would have 18 teams. So the league would have to potentially move teams back to the Western Conference to balance out the league and the scheduling.

Then, you have the whole mess which is the Phoenix Coyotes situation, and that ownership limbo that has been going on for over 4 years now. That franchise could get purchased and relocated as well, which creates a problem for the league and this new realignment program, if the team is moved somewhere in the east.

I read on CBS Sports.com today that a new potential ownership group is meeting with the NHL about buying and keeping the team in Phoenix. Unfortunately, the league has so many interested parties that cannot get the City of Glendale to provide them with a decent lease agreement on the arena. The team is losing money, and the arena lease deal is the key to getting that team back to a point where it can at least achieve break even status.

In the end, I think that the NHL realignment plan makes sense: from a geographic standpoint, to a TV ratings perspective, and for the fans of this wonderful sport. I look forward to seeing each team in the league at least twice per season, and I think the new rivalries will be fun to watch as well. I hope that the hockey fans out there, both casual and die hard, enjoyed this article and gained some useful information. I hope you enjoy the NHL Playoffs.