Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
The good news is that ESPN has ranked the Winnipeg Jets as the best Canadian franchise in the NHL. But let’s take that news with a grain of salt – or perhaps the entire salt mine. The bad news is that only put the Jets at 23 in the NHL, and 91 overall when all four major sporting associations are counted (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL).
All six Canadian franchises finished in the bottom eight of the league (only the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets managed to interrupt ESPN’s perceived Canadian dominance in the area of futility). The Jets inched out the Vancouver Canucks for top Canadian franchise in the league.
So what’s the point of such a list? It’s hard to say, really. ESPN has been putting this list together since 2003 and it usually serves as nothing more than fodder for angry fans, or bragging rights for franchises that have been doing more than fair share of winning in a short timeframe.
The Ultimate Team Rankings are compiled by a crack team who rank every major sports franchise (122 in total) in seven categories: Bang For Buck, Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Stadium Experience, Players, Coaching and Title Track. Franchises that have won a championship are given much more leeway in this list than those that haven’t, and then ESPN (with let’s say questionable knowledge of the NHL) decides whether a franchise is likely to win a title in “the lifetime of current fans”. Somehow the Phoenix Coyotes, without an owner, and with two overachieving series wins in the last Stanley Cup Playoffs, were ranked the top NHL team and sixth best franchise in all of North American professional sports.
Winnipeg’s highest ranking came in the Ownership category, finishing 34. It’s a testament to ownership that fought hard to get a professional team back in the ‘Peg and one that has so far shown a commitment to building a winning franchise through strong drafting.
As for the NHL’s weakest link? Well they also happen to be who ESPN considers to be the worst franchise in all professional sports – the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re the only team who hasn’t made the playoffs since the last lockout. Couple that with high ticket prices and no championships since the Neolithic age and you can see what ESPN holds against the Leafs. GM Brian Burke isn’t in agreement; click here to read his reaction to the list.