August 26, 2009
Blogger Derek Felska's annual ranking of the NHL's 30 fan bases rates somewhere between reasonably fair to utter garbage. But he's just so darn earnest about the whole experiment, applying his formula (arena capacity plus online presence plus editorial bias) to achieve some sort of empirical measure of fan activity and passion.
We bashed the list last season for its myopic approach, elementary understanding of a given market's challenges and nebulous use of "online presence," which could very well take Geocities sites that haven't been updated since Pavel Bure retired into account; yet the overall rankings have their moments of evenhandedness.
The Philadelphia Flyers (sixth) rank ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins (seventh); the Washington Capitals (10th) rank ahead of the New York Rangers (12th) and the Detroit Red Wings (13th). Someone get Ted Leonsis a paper bag before he starts hyperventilating.
But you don't really care about the top of the list; you care about the basement, right? So which teams are bottom-feeding on the 2009 Best and Worst Fans of the NHL list? Our Denver-based readers may want to avoid the rest of this post ...
According to The State of Hockey News, the worst fans in the NHL are:
No. 30 Atlanta Thrashers: "The Thrashers online presence is very small and that does little to help a team that many in Atlanta seem to struggle to remember they are even there. That sound you just heard was Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) screaming over the fact he has at least one more season with the team."
No. 29 Tampa Bay Lightning: "It is strange to think how far this team has slid considering the fact that its only 4 seasons removed from winning a Stanley Cup proving definitively that simply being exciting is not enough to fill the rather large (by NHL standards) St. Pete Times Forum but winning is what gets butts in the seats."
No. 28 Florida Panthers: "Perhaps its a symptom of not having made the playoffs in eight seasons but the Panthers are growing more and more irrelevant each year."
No. 27 Phoenix Coyotes: "While there would definitely be people that would debate the announced attendance as you can see a lot of empty seats most games, the Phoenix area has been one of the hardest hit areas by the economic downturn."
And No. 26, the Colorado Avalanche. Seeing as how this is patently absurd, we present the full justification:
Perhaps its fitting an Avalanche is a downward slide of snow and ice because it has been downward spiral for the team since 2007-08. Injuries submarined the team's dim playoff hopes early in the season as Colorado plummeted towards the bottom of the standings. Up until the 2005-06 season the team was riding a 10-year sellout streak, but since the team first missed the playoffs in 2006-07 (since it arrived in Colorado) the sellouts have ended and attendance has been dwindling. The retirement of the franchise's best skater of all time, Joe Sakic(notes), likely will not help get fans to show up either. A sagging economy has not helped either, but when the team stopped winning, Denver stopped caring as much. It will still be a while before Colorado can turn it around, but how much farther will this avalanche travel down the mountain before that begins, or could this team go the way of the Colorado Rockies (the hockey team not the MLB team)?
And the New York Islanders are No. 25. Yes, in this man's world, the New York Islanders have a more dedicated and rabid fan base than the Colorado Avalanche.
(Naturally, no mention of the Avalanche's online presence here, which may not be massive but damn sure has quality.)
Look, it's all conjecture spiced up with an attempt at scholarship. Maybe you agree with it, maybe you disagree with it, maybe you just want to read a list that believes the Columbus Blue Jackets have a healthier fan base than the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes.
Again, for the most part, the academic justification for these rankings makes Lepore's fan base glossary look like a graduate-level dissertation by comparison. But the minute you want to toss this list into the Internet dumpster, you see the San Jose Sharks (14th) ranked ahead of the Boston Bruins (16th) and you think, "Huh, you know, he might be on to something ..."
So which pick makes you the most mental?