May 11, 2011, 11:28 AM EDT
The NHL has been a bit busy lately with handling things with the Phoenix Coyotes and their fight to stay in Glendale as well as keeping an eye on things with the Atlanta Thrashers and their ownership boondoggle but those two teams aren’t the only ones with major problems.
Another recent expansion team that’s having money woes are the Columbus Blue Jackets. Generally when fans start thinking of expansion teams that have a hard time fitting in and making money, they turn to the Coyotes, Thrashers, and Florida Panthers but the Blue Jackets are a different kind of mess unto themselves. In their ten years in the league, they’ve made the playoffs just once getting swept out in the first round by rival Detroit in 2008.
With that history of not winning in a new place it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the Blue Jackets are still losing money and it’s only getting worse. According to NHL sources, Columbus lost $25 million last season, a $14 million increase in losses from the previous season. The team has lost a total of $80 million since the 2004-2005 lockout.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline has some reasons why the team has bled money.
There are four main reasons for the sharp increase in losses: rising player salaries, plummeting attendance, a 25 percent cut in the Blue Jackets’ revenue sharing check, and the ongoing (endless?) lease agreement issues between the Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena.
Sounds like a familiar recipe for a team to be relocated. In this case, the Blue Jackets are under no serious threat to be moved. Owner John P. McConnell is doing his part to try to keep things straight in Columbus. The one solution to try and fix things there though is simple: Win.
Columbus making the playoffs just once in team history with other seasons being mostly miserable ones with no hope, the shine is off the team for being something new and fun. Now it’s time for results and unfortunately after years of poor management and personnel decisions it takes time to get things fixed up.
Rick Nash is the team’s one marketable superstar and while there’s some solid talent otherwise in Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard, there’s not a whole lot else going on here. That much has proven to be true considering where the Jackets finished in the standings. The losses are staggering for the franchise but yet the answer to fixing it all up seems so simple. As if teams didn’t need more motivation to figure out the best ways to put a winner on the ice, they could look at the how things have gone financially for Columbus and realize that it makes all the difference.
While the NHL is going to worry about how to get things right with the Coyotes and Thrashers first, they’ll have to keep a stray eye on what the Blue Jackets are doing. Having a franchise, a new one especially, hemorrhage money like that is not good for the league and it’s push into new markets. It certainly doesn’t help make the case for future expansion easier to make.
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