In my opinion, there are several reason why the NHL should be thinking about this. The first is to improve the quality of the product. Since the lastest round of expansion began in the early nineties, nine franchises have been added. This means that there are now roughly 180-200 players in the NHL who arguably should be playing in the minor leagues, or roughly 6-7 per team. Reduce the pool of players, and the quality of those remaining in the NHL will be higher. I find it funny that when everyone was so concerned about low scoring a few years ago, the dilution of talent caused by overexpansion was never seriously discussed. The second is that there are probably 8-10 very marginal franchises right now in terms of attendance. Now with the salary cap, even teams with poor attendance may still be able to make a go of it financially, but that doesn't mean it's good for the NHL as a whole. My criteria for a financially marginal franchise may be different from everyone else, but for the purpose of this discussion it's teams that do not consistently sell 90% of their available tickets, have consecutive seasons where they sell less than 80% of their tickets, or sell less than 90% of their tickets even when in the playoffs. Using these criteria, the teams which I would consider financially marginal are as follows: Chicago - have sold an average of only 68% of their tickets over the past five seasons, during which the made the playoffs only once. Suffer from horrible ownership and a soulless new arena, but a team with the Blackhawks tradition should still be able to sell 80% of their tickets even when things are bad. New Jersey - this franchise is the one that worries me the most. Even though they have been one of the top teams in hockey for the last 10-15 years, their attendance has consistently hovered around the 78% mark. They also play in a lousy arena in a poor location, and when Marty Broduer retires and the team starts missing the playoffs a few times, you could see attendance drop down to the 10,000-12,000 per game level. The fact that they barely drew 15,000 the season after winning the Stanley Cup in 2002-2003 is a big red flag. Atlanta - you've gotta wonder how long a non-hockey city will support a team that does not make the playoffs. They drew well their initial season, but in the five years since then have only sold about 78% of their tickets. NY Islanders - another team that suffers from poor ownership and a dilapidated arena. Have averaged about 80% of tickets sold over the last five years, during which they've made the playoffs three times. Washington - frankly, it's inexcuable that their attendance has been as poor as it is considering that they are generally a pretty solid team, have had some stars such a Jagr to draw fans, and play in a city filled with lobbyists. They've averaged just over 80% of tickets sold over the past five years, during which they've made the playoffs three times. Carolina - It will be very interesting to see how well they draw this year after winning the cup. Hopefully, their cup win will have the same affect on their franchise as winning the cup did on Tampa Bay. They've only sold 77% of their tickets the last five years, and if they do not sell 90-95% this year, I would be very concerned. Florida - With the expection of the season after making the finals, have never sold more than 84% of their tickets in their history. Very worrisome, since Miami is not a traditional hockey market. Anaheim - despite making the finals several years ago and the conference finals last year, have never been able to develop a really solid fan base. Only sold 87% of their tickets the year after making the cup finals, and have averaged just under 82% over the past five years. However, their attendance has been stronger the last two years. Nevertheless, if they do not break 90% this year coming off a trip to the conference finals and having added Chris Pronger, I would be very concerned. St. Louis - has always seemed to be a solid hockey town, but that may be more of a function of the fact that the Blues made the playoffs 26 years in a row. Attendance dropped off the face of the planet last year, as the Blues drew more than 4200 fans fewer than in 2003-2004 in a rebuilding year. Attendance looks like it will be equally poor this year, and if management does not turn things around quickly on the ice the franchise could be in trouble. Ignoring the feasibility of whether the NHL could get the players to agree to contraction even if it wanted to, it has some seriously questions to ask itself. To start with, can New York strongly support three teams and can Los Angeles support two? What happens to the NHL in Los Angeles when an NFL team eventually comes back? How strong are the franchises in non-traditional markets? Not only do you have the recent expansion teams in the south mentioned above, but you also have the western markets such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Denver that other teams moved to. Looking at what is happening in St. Louis, you have to wonder about how strong the Dallas and Denver franchises are, considering that both teams have been periennial Stanley Cup contenders and the fans have never had to have their commitment tested by a few years of poor results. It will be very interesting to see how well the Avs draw this year now that they may not make the playoffs.