Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Strike Three

After two previous discussions about changing the schedule and the accompanying votes came up short one vote a third and final vote by the NHL failed to garner enough support to make an intelligent move. The decision to maintain the scheduling status quo means the end of Hockey Day in Canada and is another blow against the league's Department of Common Sense which clearly sports a vacant position. Next season the Northeast and Northwest will not meet meaning that the only all-Canadian games will be within each division.

Once again, the league has allowed a topic that should have been settled earlier (and with a better schedule) to steal the limelight from the selling of the league. No doubt the television broadcasts that care will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to sell Brian Burke's ridiculous claims that the current schedule is great since it saves for travel wear and tear (read: it saves owners money). Players travel by charters and stay in luxury hotels and PLAY A GAME FOR A LIVING! I think that they can handle two extra cross-continent flights.

In its current state it is very simple to sum-up the schedule: It sucks. I hate seeing the same teams over and over and apparently all the empty seats throughout the league agree. The Leafs played the Bruins 7 times in 5 weeks. That is ridiculous. The playoffs go until June. Somewhere there is a way to solve both problems with one brilliant move. Unfortunately, that solution is not to be found in the head of anyone associated with the NHL. Many proposals were brought up the last time this issue was discussed but so many are non-starters because they involved more travel or fewer games. God forbid that owners that fought for and received cost certainty on salaries use some of those savings to give fans what they want. How about this proposal from David Johnson of HockeyAnalysis.com (an idea I agreed with so much that my subconsious tricked me into believing that I had thought it up. Damn you Jiminy Cricket! Note: I know that he was a conscience but in my head he has multiple roles.):
  • 4 games against each team in your conference (since you are fighting each team in your conference for a playoff spot, not those in your division, it is fair that you play each the same amount of times) which results in 56 games.

  • Play each team in the other conference once (alternating home and away) for 15 games (total: 71)

  • Leaving 11 games to be scheduled at each team's discretion (much like college sports) that will serve to accentuate or maintain rivalries. Rules could be put in place to regulate that not everyone plays the same teams every year but the possibilities for these games would be immense. They could serve to add a couple of regular season matchups between last year's Stanley Cup participants or to rehash an exciting playoff series or to schedule the Habs and Leafs in Western Canada or any of a myriad of scenarios.

That gives us 82 games (since we would not be able to pry any money out of the cold, dead hands of owners or players) in a season and cuts down immensely on the issues with the current schedule that bother a lot of fans. All fans want is a little creativity in resolving the scheduling issue but greedy and stupid NHL owners, GMs, and officials are hell-bent on letting this atrocious system finish it's ill-conceived three-year cycle. RIP HDiC, you will be sorely missed.

Update: Looks like the Penguins' potential nomad existence played a part in keeping the schedule the same. Unbelievably, enough teams voted for change but couldn't agree on what change so there will be NO change. Isn't Bettman's job to mediate these issues?

And Wellwood is out for 8 weeks. Cancel the season.

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