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Sorry Winnipeg—forget moving the Thrashers, let’s have a dispersal draft: And the Leafs select…

Those who follow this site fairly regularly may know that I’ve written in the past about my support for the notion of downsizing the NHL to about 24 teams.

Yes, I know this won’t happen for all kinds of reasons, economic and otherwise.  But that doesn’t mean that the hockey wouldn’t be better—much better, in terms of the overall quality of play.

Now, I do respect the fact that these are very good paying (and hard to earn) jobs we're talking about, and the NHLPA would rather walk through hot coals than see a decrease in the number of players receiving NHL salaries.  It’s not that I oppose having hockey in a lot of U.S. markets. In fact, I will be among those disappointed and sad if Atlanta loses a team—again.  I well remember the old Atlanta Flames.  Former Hab legend “Boom Boom” Geoffrion was among their coaches, and he became immensely popular in the south.  (In fact, as you all no doubt know, his grandson Blake is a local Nashville-born guy now proudly carrying on the Geoffrion name in the southern U.S. with the rising Predators franchise.)  Former Leaf player and coach Pat Quinn was the captain of the Flames for years, and they had some fine players—goalie Dan Bouchard, Tom Lysiak, Eric Vail, Guy Chouinard, 50-goal scorer Jean Pronovost (post-Pittsburgh) are just a few names that pop to mind. 

And there were many more that I’m not remembering as I write this.

So it’s not as if I just want to see the NHL lop off a bunch of teams for no reason.  But, if teams are losing money consistently and no local investors want to step forward, maybe the answer is cutting back the number of teams until there is a better plan to make old- or new- franchises successful.

That all said, I would love to see the NHL back in Winnipeg and Quebec City, and not necessarily at the cost of any current franchises.

Contradictory?  I suppose.  I realize you can't easily add teams here in Canada and still follow a "contraction" formula.  But yes, I would like to see more Canadian franchises.  And while I would dearly love to see franchises successful in all U.S. markets, I’m not sure that is happening.  Some are really struggling, clearly.

That reality being the case, can you imagine if there was, say, an old-time dispersal draft, instead of moving the Thrashers to a new city?

By dispersal draft I mean that, when a team folds, their players under contract are basically placed in a draft, available to the existing NHL teams.  While, again, the NHLPA would never let this happen (though it kind of did happen before the 1979-’80 NHL season, as I recall- though the four incoming WHA teams were able to protect four players each, as I recall) it would be more than a little interesting if it ever did happen.

If this dispersal draft went in reverse order of the final standings, just like the entry draft, then the Leafs would pick (I believe) ninth overall, relative to last place- right where they finished this past season in the NHL standings. 

Now take a look at the Thrashers roster to see what would be available.  There’s some awfully good talent there.

Pavelec, the goalie, could certainly help some teams, perhaps Edmonton.  On defense there is Bogosian (20), Byfuglien (24), Enstrom (26) and Oduya (29).

Up front the Thrashers have some talent, too.  Young Burmistrov is only 19.  Patrice Cormier is 20.  Evander Kane is 19.  Klinberg is 20.  Fiesty captain Andrew Ladd is all of 25. Former OHL star Bryan Little is 23.  Late-blooming Rob Schremp is still just 24.

That’s a dozen guy with real ability right there. If the Leafs picked up just about any of those guys, it would be a boost.  Who would be available at number 9?

Won’t happen, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming while waiting for the draft and free agency, eh?


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