It seems silly to talk about expansion in the NHL considering the league is enjoying its second stoppage in nine years. It seems foolish to even hint at the topic considering the recent issues that have arisen in locations like Atlanta and the continually discussed situation in Phoenix. Reports have indicated that numerous franchises are in dangerous financial territory.
Except this is the NHL. You can take logic and common sense and throw it out the window. An article from NESN.com indicates that the league might be planning to expand in the very near future and could be preparing to tackle such an issue as soon as the lockout ends.
If you ever need help placing your cart in front of your horse, ask the NHL for help. They're the undisputed champions.
To be fair, the league has denied all reports speculating that they are thinking expansion. Still, the signs indicate that various cities could be targeted for expansion including Seattle, Quebec City or Toronto. In the past we had discussed that a location like Seattle or Toronto might be home to a relocated squad but it appears, if you're to believe these reports, that the NHL may use two of the locations above for two new squads.
The idea of expansion isn't a surprise. The NHL's proposed alignment – you know, the one that got promptly rejected by the players – was one that that was quite lopsided, with two Conferences holding eight teams and the other two holding seven. The alignment didn't make much sense for a league with 30 teams. However, it was a proposal that would make plenty of sense for a league with 32 teams. (Gasp!)
Expansion is a perfectly fine idea to toss around the table. However, the timing has to be nearly perfect in order for it to be successful. At the current time expansion seems like a poor idea. It doesn't address the issues in Phoenix or even the ones in Columbus. By the time the NHL actually does expand there might be one, two or even a handful of other teams in sticky situations that we're writing about.
Perhaps the most intelligent, yet most difficult, decision would be to contract. Until the league has a proven record of having each franchise post positive, or at least sustainable numbers, there's no logic in expanding. Instead, cut the weak links and build consistent gains in the other franchises. To borrow an old expression, you're only as strong as your weakest link.