Atlanta's a big market. A big and very FICKLE market. Anyone familiar with Atlanta sports knows that people only show enthusiasm when the product on the field, court, or ice is winning. The Hawks are playing well, so everyone here's a basketball fan. When they were horrible a couple of years ago, you couldn't give tickets away. I was at a Braves/Cardinals game a few weeks ago, and less than half the stadium was full - and half of that were Cards fans like me. The Falcons only started to sell tickets last season.
Oh no, are the Braves going to move, too?
The Thrashers had several sell-outs the season they made the playoffs, and both of the playoff games sold out as well. There are hockey fans here, but they only show up when the team wins. The last game of the season this year was a sell-out, and attendance improved the 2nd half of the year because the team started playing better. This isn't a market who will support a team through good and bad and average times. The success of a franchise in Atlanta depends upon the product on ice, and that depends on competent ownership who are more concerned about running a team than they are about fighting in court.
Some Canadian/Northern US fans think that the Southeastern Division's worthless. Which would explain why there are two SE teams in the semi-finals right now, 2 of the last 4 Cups were won by Southeast teams, and the last time a team from the NE won it it was NJ Devils in '03. Geographic location has nothing to do with the on-ice success of a product. If that were true, why did the last Canadian team win it in 1993? Ownership, drafting, cultivation of prospects and running a franchise correctly leads to success.
I wish that people would stop trying to turn this discussion into Where in North America is Carmen Sandiego. The Leafs have been average for the past 10 years. Oh noes! It's all because they're in Toronto! Move them to a different city and then they're going to be WONDERFUL. Wonder why we don't hear that argument... when a traditional market city's team is horrible, we hear the blame being placed in the right spots. When a non-traditional market team has troubles, it's all the location and fans' fault. Use some common sense.