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Ranking The Desirability Of All 30 Free Agent Destinations…With Bias (NSFW)

07/16/13
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Earlier today Justin Bourne of The Backhand Shelf wrote an article expressing his opinion on which teams were the most and least desirable destinations for an unrestricted free agent.  He attempted to do so devoid of bias and mostly succeeded outside of not calling New Jersey Devils fans complete crap and a disgrace to successful northern markets.

I thought it was an interesting topic to write about, but I just can’t get past the fact that an attempt at objectivity is ultimately pointless because different players seek different things in terms of cities and weather and whatever.  So the only thing I will do is shed my Sabres and Sharks fandom and not make them the top two because I like them the best.

I grew up in small towns, but the never ending life of big cities fascinates me.  I don’t really care about warm weather, but I do care about personal and team success.  Therefore I’ll be focusing on the potential for success and my impression of certain NHL cities, which is almost guaranteed to be inaccurate and mean-spirited.  Oh goody.

Yes, I want to play there, right now.

1. Minnesota

This was unexpected, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  The fans are crazy, the team seems like it’s finally going to be more than spot-competitive, and the state offers a nice blend of city life with Minneapolis and St. Paul, and northern country living.  Plus I can marry whoever I want there.  Sign me up.

2. San Jose

It was a tough choice between here and the next city on my list.  I’m taking San Jose because the area is much nicer, the state is nicer, and the fans are a little bit better.  They’re probably lacking the ability to compete long term, but they should have a few years left.  Plus I can get married there!

3. Chicago

This is all about the top four and few teams being able to beat the likes of Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa.  Plus getting the chance to play with one of my favorite players in Hossa, one of the league’s hardest workers in Toews, and one of the biggest party animals in Kane is a big draw.  I could just continually leave anonymous bottles of vodka in his locker and enjoy the show.  Illinois isn’t great, but Chicago is nice and maybe I can find one of those newspapers from the future.

4. New York Islanders

New York City plus a team full of reasonably paid talent plus a class act like Matt Moulsen?  Get a goalie and I’m there.  Sure ownership is a little troubling, and the long term outlook is a bit murky, but I think the other benefits outweigh the risks.  Plus their GM isn’t a complete idiot, their fans aren’t one hundred percent gross, and they actually put people in the building once in a while, unlike other teams nearby.

5. Vancouver

It is really, really difficult to beat the Pacific Northwest, but Vancouver drops on this list out of an appreciation for the difficulties of living outside one’s home country.  They’ve got a solid fanbase, a relaxed PNW vibe, and they’ll be able to compete while the Sedins are still decent.

Eh…sweeten the pot a little

6. Buffalo

Buffalo has exactly what I want in a city, enough people to keep it interesting, snow, a booming artistic scene, and the ability to drive an hour and be in the middle of nowhere.  That having been said, New York taxes suck, all the local politicians are corrupt, imbeciles, or both, and the team doesn’t look like it will be competitive in the near future.  Oh, and the fans are kind of stupid.  And the media is like a North Korean propaganda machine of dumb.  Shit I better move on.

7. Anaheim

This is actually the only other place I’ve seen a game besides Buffalo.  The building is super nice, they have ice girls, the team is reasonably talented, the weather looks like it was manufactured, and you get all the people of LA with none of the grossness.  But the fans just don’t give a crap, oh man do they not give a crap.

8. St. Louis

It’s not so much that they’ll compete as it is the way they’ll compete with contributions from all comers.  You know that if you play in St. Louis, you’re going to matter, regardless of which line you’re on.  Sure St. Louis is gross, but so is almost every city.  It loses points for being in the midwest, but what doesn’t?

9. Los Angeles

While we’re on the topic of competing, might as well get the Kings in here.  Unlike Anaheim they’ve actually seen a sellout before, and obnoxious bandwagon basketball fans are more tolerable than obnoxious bandwagon baseball fans (more on that in a minute).  Los Angeles is disgusting and the traffic sucks, but give me a gas mask and I think I can make it work.

10. Boston

With the organization participating in Boston Pride, they close the one gap that makes them less desirable than Toronto.  Really the only drawback is being near so many Boston sports fans who have handled success worse than anyone else in human history.  Yes, even Yankees fans.

11. Toronto

Oh god…it’s so expensive.  Why is it so expensive.  The team isn’t even good.  Why am I here?  Oh right…I’m a SUPERSTAR!  If Toronto was a well run and uber-competitive team like the Bruins and they had a likable owner, it wouldn’t even be a contest for the most desirable location.  But they’re not those things, so they’re 11th place, which probably feels pretty good to them anyway recent history considered.

12. Philadelphia

Philly is a great sports city so there’s definitely recognition, but you can never tell if it’s going to result in some x-rated fun or a bar fight.  I have a soft spot for Philly, I admit, partially because I grew up loving Ron Hextall as a kid.

They tell me you have redeeming qualities

13. Columbus

I really, really wanted to rank Columbus higher.  I like the Blue Jackets, and they seem to be on the path to success…  But then I realized I’d have to live in Ohio, and even though they feature the premiere Big 10 team, the Big 10 still sucks.  And there’s not even anywhere nearby you can run to.  Cleveland?  Cincinnati?  Blegh.

14. Washington

The Capitals fans are decent, if toothless, and the city is nice, but I don’t think I could stomach living in a place full of so many annoying tourists that also feels like it’s trying to physically melt me for five months of the year.  Plus it’s not even a state.  Lame.

15. Edmonton

No bad words for the city of Edmonton here, that sort of living is right up my alley.  But they’ve been bad forever and they seem like that NFL team that just drafts a quarterback with every single pick.  Dude, you need other pieces.  Once they grabbed a few guys they knew were going to be good to great NHL talents, they should have traded down to make their prospect pool as deep as possible.

16. Carolina

I have no desire to live in the south, but if I did have to pick a state, it would be North Carolina.  I have family there, I’ve been almost everywhere in the state, and they tell me that Raleigh is like Buffalo if you fixed everything wrong with it.  But hot weather, bad fans, and crazypants politics getting ever crazypantsier?  No thanks.

17. Ottawa

I’ve heard nice things and I know people in Ottawa.  Sure senators fans don’t really exist, but I can look past that.  This is mostly about it having less wrong with it than the rest of this list.

18. Nashville

The good – bizarrely competitive team most years, Pekka Rinne, underrated fan base, and hot country girls.  The bad – cheap ownership, is in Tennessee, no superstar forwards, and dumb country girls.

19. Montreal

Sigh…I feel like if I was from Montreal, I would really, really like it.  But I feel that right now they would really, really hate me for no reason.  Let me pose this question: why aren’t we putting Canadiens fans right next to Philly fans in the awful people section of the NHL yearbook?

Maybe if I was wasted

20. Colorado

Cool locale ruined by bad fans, a lack of talent, and a moronic and cheap front office.

21. Phoenix

Yes, Phoenix is a full TEN teams from the bottom, which is higher than they deserve to be on pretty much any list.  I’ve had really good experiences in conversing with their front office, and from what I’ve heard Phoenix is a gem in an otherwise forgettable to awful American southwest.

22. Dallas

Call me when you move to Austin.

23/24. Tampa Bay/Florida

There are two hockey teams in Florida?  Why are there two hockey teams in Florida?  The Panthers probably get a slight nod because I think their fans are better, I think the team is better, and their President seems like a mostly reasonable person (for a rich guy) on Twitter.  And he hasn’t ceded control of any aspect of the organization to his daughters at any point.  I don’t even know if he has daughters.  Point – Yormark.

Um…thanks, but the KHL sounds pretty good right now

25. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh wins this group because they have talent, even though their fans are among the worst in the NHL.  I can’t stand Pittsburghians, I don’t even want the Pirates to be good, even though that’s like the most hipster thing ever right now.  (Until we hit the tipping point and it becomes ironic-cool to sport Cardinals and Reds hats.)  God Pittsburgh is awful.

26. Winnipeg

Only because I like small cities, but I’d rather play hockey in Atlanta.  At least Atlanta has MILFs.  What does Winnipeg have?  Seriously?  Evander Kane is the coolest person to set foot there ever, and Evander Kane is an asshole.

27. Calgary

They’re a mess right now, there’s no doubt about it, but I just want to wear one of those jerseys.  And on the off chance that they’re good during my tenure, the red-outs are AWESOME.  Come on Feaster, Costanza this shit up.  Opposite time!

28. New York Rangers

It pains me to have them this high, but I can’t honestly excuse the next two teams enough to drop them.  At least the Rangers play in New York City, even though their team sucks, their front office sucks, their fans suck, and their goalie is an idiot if he thinks he can win a cup by re-signing with them.  The only redeeming quality is that they would pay me a billion dollars to play for them and then I could suck and get half a billion dollars to not play for them.

29. Detroit

Detroit is an apocalyptic wasteland, but being a Buffalonian I can sympathize with that.  I can even accept it being the hometown of both Kid Rock and the Insane Clown Posse.  But the whole Hockeytown thing is one of the worst things about this sport, and they cling to their original six history like that girl you dated in high school who’s Facebooking you in your late twenties because her life is a trainwreck.  They’re like an aging stripper and the fall is going to be ugly.  I haven’t even gotten to how Mike Babcock looks like a creepier version of the Green Goblin.  Ew.  Did I mention Amway yet?  They’re partnered with Amway.  What a crap sandwich.  The only way they could become more of a pox on society is if they started suing everyone for the uses of the words ‘hockey’ or ‘town’ Texas A&M style.  And yet…they’re not last.

30. New Jersey

New Jersey is a beautiful state.  It’s a lot like people, exquisite in the variety they offer, gorgeous and alluring in many ways, and yet there are just some places you don’t want to go.  Like Newark.  But here’s what gets me about New Jersey.  When people point to empty buildings in Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Phoenix, at least those teams can (could, RIP Thrashers) make the excuses that they’ve been mostly terrible and don’t exist in places where ice forms naturally and kids grow up playing the sport.  The Devils have been wildly successful and play in a northern market in one of the most compelling divisions in sports near the largest city in the country and they still can’t get fans to show up.  Plus all the good players on their team are a billion years old and they’re financially unstable.  They had games a few seasons ago where they couldn’t even fill their bench.  What is this, Arena Football?  The ECHL?  I would even accept them if they moved to Seattle because they’re so bad, and the roster would get turned over so fast it would be almost indistinguishable from having an expansion team.

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