Phoenix-Nashville: Bettman vindicated? | Hockey | CBC Sports

Playoffs 2013Phoenix-Nashville: Bettman vindicated?

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | 09:28 AM

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Nashville forward Andrei Kostitsyn scores on Phoenix goalie Mike Smith during the shootout in a game last month in Glendale. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press) Nashville forward Andrei Kostitsyn scores on Phoenix goalie Mike Smith during the shootout in a game last month in Glendale. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman helped prevent Nashville and Phoenix from relocating per the wishes of a certain Canadian businessman, and now one of those teams will be in the Western Conference final.

Perhaps the former Research in Motion co-founder can commission a sculptor to quicky assemble The Balsillie Cup, given to the winner of the upcoming Western Conference quarter-final series between the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes.

That matchup was secured on Monday night when Phoenix downed Chicago, clinching its first ever playoff round win since 1997, when it relocated from Winnipeg.

Jim Balsillie, you may recall, tried to buy both the Predators and Coyotes, but came up empty handed.

The bid for the Nashville club in 2007 fell on deaf ears before ever getting to a Board of Governors vote when Balsillie started getting the gears in motion to host hockey games in Hamilton, not Music City.

Having badly charred the bridge to the NHL, Balsillie tried to purchase Phoenix from Jerry Moyes through bankruptcy court

It seemed logical on the face of it - what right-thinking corporation would year after year prop up a division that was losing dozens of millions of dollars? - but a judge ultimately ruled that a sports league such as the NHL has the right to determine its owners and where franchises are located, among other factors.

We don't think commissioner Gary Bettman overtly roots for teams. But given that he's always been quick to recite the league's successful interventions on behalf of Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Ottawa, etc., Bettman is undoubtedly pleased at a turn of events that will see one of the Coyotes and Predators just one step away from challenging for the Stanley Cup.

Given the massive ratings haul in the U.S. for the first round, there could be momentum established to help cushion the fact that Nashville and Phoenix won't set the meters ablaze.

Bettman, unlike former boss David Stern, sees it as extremely critical that franchises don't jump about, and has fought hard for both franchises.

It would be hard to argue at this point that Nashville isn't one of the more vibrant franchises in the NHL: well-run as a hockey club, an arena experience that gets positive reviews, and a celebrity factor few other cities can match.

Phoenix is a different kettle.

There's no guarantee that this success, which could be fleeting given the number of Coyotes banged up from the six-game series, will mean the league can finally secure a buyer for the Arizona franchise it has stewarded for over two years.

But it certainly won't hurt the cause too see the Arena more fully employed by passionate fans.

Cynics will point out that the teams below Nashville on the attendance list include recent Cup champions Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas and New Jersey.

Clubs need staunch, not fairweather fans for long-term stability.

But in the meantime, let's enjoy the moment in the sun for Bettman's Southern strategy. 

New blood

There's still a chance that the second round of the NHL playoffs could feature a whopping seven of eight clubs who have never won the Stanley Cup in their current incarnation (we're not counting the 1920s Senators).

Obviously Boston, New Jersey and the New York Rangers will have a lot to say about that over the next three nights. Philadelphia is the lone exception locked in to future play who have won the Cup, albeit not since 1975.

There is also the possibility of not one Original Six club among the final eight. That wouldn't be unprecedented (see the Great Anomaly Year of 2005-06), but it's quite rare.

In addition to the Coyotes and Predators, the West will feature the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings.

All told, the franchises remaining have endured a heavy dose of disappointment in the Stanley Cup Final, with only New Jersey boasting a winning record at the final stage.

Stanley Cup Final record:

  • Boston (6-12)
  • Florida (0-1)
  • Los Angeles (0-1)
  • St. Louis (0-3)
  • Ottawa (0-1)
  • New York Rangers (4-6)
  • New Jersey (3-1)
  • Philadelphia (2-6)
  • Phoenix  (0-0)
  • Nashville (0-0)
  • Washington (0-1)


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