Author's note: After watching High Fidelity and remembering how enjoyable it is to make top five lists with friends, I'm going to try something new. Every Thursday (or a day that ends in a "y") I'm going to come up with a top five list that involves Minnesota Wild current events. Is it original? Hell No. Does that matter?
On Monday, we looked at how the ongoing CBA negotiations are going with five teams that stand to lose the most from a potential Lockout and today the ones that lose the least are featured.
(Check out the teams that lose the most from a lockout by clicking on it)
Sadly, any optimism that was there three days ago has disappeared. Meetings did not go well today while one NHL agent believes the league will lock out the players until Christmas, which would mirror the NBA's Lockout last year. To further that, it's never a good sign when Commissioner Gary Bettman is touting the "world's greatest fans" 23 days before the collective bargaining agreement expires.
Some can chalk that up to negotiating tactics but a hockey-less 2012 is something no fan likes to hear. After the jump, the five fanbases who can survive any potential Lockout the best.
5. Atlanta Thrashers
Its hard to lose anything when everyone comes down to Atlanta's level.
5 (Take Two). Edmonton Oilers
Okay in all seriousness, the Oilers have loyal fans. There are teams like Columbus, whose fans may not want to start a season after finishing 30th and trading the face of their franchise, but none of them hold a candle to Edmonton. There's no competition both literally and figuratively. At least for the Blue Jackets, they have to deal with Ohio State football/basketball and being a new franchise. The Oilers, who also play in a small market, have the CFL which barely overlaps with the NHL and history (5 Cups and an 80's dynasty) Columbus couldn't buy.
While things haven't been well lately in Edmonton - no one wants to sit through 3 straight seasons of receiving the #1 pick - fans continue to cheer on their team in hopes that this is the year things turn around in an old arena. Hard to see a month or two stopping that.
4. Detroit Red Wings
Regardless of if there are empty seats or not in Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings are an Original Six franchise with history built upon history. Successful history. Detroit has made the playoffs 21 seasons in a row, won four Stanley Cups in 15 years and are playing in their second Winter Classic in four years this January. There's a lot for Red Wings fans to look forward to even without first ballot Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom (who retired this year); however with an aging core, no major free agent signing and no Lidstrom, putting that off for a bit might not be too bad.
3. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal is the most successful franchise in NHL history with a fanbase that spans generations and language barriers. The kings of French Canada, they've even absorbed most of the Quebec City fans and seeing a peaceful end to a magnificent rivalry. With all that, the Habs have a passionate following that some cult leaders would love to have. A Lockout won't stop that and with Montreal finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference last year, it could be for the best.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
The rate things are going, Canadian Godzilla could rampage Toronto followed by the US Army pulling another 1812 and fans would still be wondering when the Leafs play. They own Toronto that much.
Toronto, the third straight Original Six team on the list, are the only ones in the NHL who haven't made the postseason since the 2004-2005 Lockout. Despite that, fans still flock to the Air Canada Centre to sell it out and tickets remain expensive. The Leafs do benefit from being the only hockey team in a large (5 million) crazed market and between that and the team's history will get them far in the case of another Lockout. It's why they're the first Canadian team to participate in a Winter Classic in lieu of their success, however, that fact also gives Toronto something tangible to lose.
1. Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo, like Edmonton, is a small-market team that doesn't have winter competition. Despite sitting on the Canadian border and having fans that don't count in TV ratings, the Sabres consistently put up the top television numbers in the US. It's no bandwagon as we're talking about a team that finished 9th last year.
Most importantly, the Sabres have loyalty that's not on the level of Montreal; it helps that Buffalo have a large number of transplant fans. There isn't a Winter Classic to look forward to like Toronto or Detroit and outside of flirting with Shane Doan haven't made a big off-season splash. Buffalo won't lose fans if hockey stays away for a few months but they also don't have much to look forward to when it does.