The St. John’s Edge are trying to figure out who will be playing for them next season.
They are also trying to determine exactly who they will be playing.
The Edge’s roster-building for their second National Basketball League of Canada season intensified this week with a trade for the rights to former London Lightning and Saint John Riptide star Gabe Freeman and expected free-agent offers to a number of players who had been on the protected lists of other NBLC clubs. As of Wednesday, previously protected players could accept offers from other teams, with their current club given 48 hours in which to match the offer or arrange a trade.
But it’s a busy time for the Edge and the NBL Canada in general as the schedule for the 2018-19 season is also being developed. But before that schedule can be finalized, the league must figure out its structure.
The Edge played their inaugural season as part of the Central Division, with the Lightning, Windsor Express, K-W (Kitchener-Waterloo) Titan and Niagara River Lions. However with the expansion Sudbury Five set to join the league in 2018-19, the plan was for the Edge to move to the Atlantic Division with more natural geographic rivals — Saint John, the Island (Charlottetown, P.E.I.) Storm, Moncton Magic, Cape Breton Highlanders and Halifax Hurricanes.
“We shouldn’t have conferences with only four teams. If you have 10 teams, everybody plays home and away and fans get to see every team and all the players. That’s my opinion and I’ve told it to everyone who wants to listen.”
But Niagara left the league to join the new Canadian Elite Basketball League, which is set to begin play next summer, and although the NBLC said it was determined to place a replacement franchise in Niagara, that hasn’t happened.
As a result, the league has been left to consider other options.
One is retention of a five-and-five divisional split by leaving the Edge in the Central. Another would be to proceed with having the Edge join the Atlantic and having the unbalance of four- and six-team divisions. That would likely require the league build in the possibility of the fifth-place finisher in the Atlantic crossing over for the playoffs if its record was better than the fourth-place team in the Central..
A third option — and the one Edge interim general manager Carl English favours — is to do away with divisions entirely and have one 10-team league.
“It’s the only one that makes sense to me,” said English. “We shouldn’t have conferences with only four teams. If you have 10 teams, everybody plays home and away and fans get to see every team and all the players.
“That’s my opinion and I’ve told it to everyone who wants to listen.”
The Edge played at least one road game against every team last year, but the Storm, Riptide and Highlanders did not travel to St. John’s to play at Mile One Centre.
For the Edge, at least, the 10-team concept would not be earth-shaking in terms of its own travel, seeing they already have to board planes at the start and end of road trips, whether the point of entry and departure is Halifax or Toronto.
English also likes the fact that a non-divisional set-up would mean a playoff structure where the first-place finisher would play the eight-place team, second playing seventh… and so on.
“That means something for your standard … and it means something for your placement for the playoffs,” he said. “And at the end of the day, it should mean the two best teams will meet in (the final) no matter whether they are from Ontario or the eastern part of the league.”