The unbalanced schedule

It looks like there is considerable motion to scrap the much maligned unbalanced regular season scheduling. I know there are real legitimate arguments for doing this, but I think scrapping it completely is a big mistake.

I understand, and agree, that the league should make sure the stars of the game get into every market. It's absurd that Crosby and Ovechkin get to western conference cities only once every three years. The league should make sure they are coming once every other year. The fans in the west deserve a chance to see these stars, and the fans in the east deserve a chance to see the Western Conference teams and stars as well, so I understand this point.

The one thing that the unbalanced schedule has really started to produce is divisional rivalries. Before the schedule took effect the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers really had as much interest to me as the LA Kings or Phoenix Coyotes. I didn't really care what they did in the grand scheme of things.

Now that the unbalanced schedule is here, not only has the emphasis on divisional rivalries caused me to pay attention to the Northwest as a whole, but it makes the fight for that divisional championship more intriguing. The #3, 2, or1 seed in the playoffs is a lot different than the 4,5, and 6, seed. Ask Nashville how much they wish they had the one seed last season.

My idea is to slightly unbalance the season schedule, but keep the emphasis on division rivalries. I like playing against that pansy Dion Phaenuf 8 times a season, it leads to bad blood which leads to him getting his ass kicked the last day of the season in a pointless game. That's good. So every team should play 1 game a season vs someone in the other conference, alternating home and away each season. They should play their division opponents 6 times each (3 home, 3 away). They should play everyone else in the conference twice (h and a) which leaves 3 games left. Each team could then play either 1 team from each division in the other conference whose finish correlates to their own. (for Example the Avs finished 4th in the NW so they'd play Florida, Montreal, and the Islanders one more time).

5 comments:

  1. Everyone thinks it is absurd that Crosby and Ovechkin only come to the Western cities. What about all the talent in the west that the eastern conference doesn't get to see? Crosby and Ovechkin are not the saviors of this league in my opinion. It will take all of the young talent (even in Phoenix and Florida) to get this league "back mainstream". The veterans appeal to the fans that already follow the game, but someone new to the sport only thinks about the young 'uns.

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  2. Oh -- and let me add that I know you mentioned the east needs to see the western teams. I guess my point was more about who I think is going to be the league's savior...

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  3. Well you're right, that there are plenty of young western stars that the east doesn't get to see. Last years ROY ballot proved that, since Stastny didn't get nearly the credit, or votes, he deserved and Kopitar wasn't even a finalist.

    The west has a bunch of young stars, Hemsky, Stastny, Kopitar, Phaenuf, Getzlaf, and many more deserve their chance to shine on the right coast.

    But I think your discussion is one for a different blog post. While i cited the often examples of Ovechkin and Crosby, who are by far the two most well-known young stars, the same certainly applies to the Western Stars.

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  4. Great topic.

    As a fan of european football...I think all teams should play each other home and away. I think it makes the competition richer. How we consider the NHL a coherent league where much of its talent is, by rule, segregated is hard to figure. In addition, I think a fully integrated league competition would only help smaller markets compete with large markets. And fans would get to know all players through actual rather than fantasy competition.

    This "balancing" claim is simply not going to cut it. Travel: some teams will always have to travel more than others. Talent: each team will have talent at a given time that some of the market won't get to see. Market: selling-out one game or two games a season when celebrities come to town is not a healthy way to balance the books for any franchise. (And it stinks of a marketing campaign. Why invest in a team that depends on other team's talent to be profitable?) Culture: the NHL needs to find a way to educate its fans and potential fans other than annually selling a rising star or aging giant. (I certainly didn't root for the Whalers as a kid because I got to watch other teams' stars. Hockey, like soccer, has a special culture to it that has almost nothing to do with the nature of its market. It will never be a league like the NFL and NBA that are both absolutely dependent on their marketing schemes for their survival as a pro sport.)

    Anyway, ff you play every team twice and split the rest among division rivals, then you'd have a truly complete season that justifies the conference and divisional set-up currently in place. And one in which every game becomes one of paramount significance. As a season ticket holder last year, I was most upset about the games I could tell simply did not mean much to the players. If 60 some games were vital to win, nevermind draw, then you can bet there would be a consistency to the spirit of every game.

    Then again, I am all for shortening the regular season and adding a shorter, wild-card playoff-series. Take the AVs conference, for example. How we didn't deserve a shot at the postseason last year is beyond me.

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  5. Gary

    One thing that Euro soccer has, is only 20 teams in a league (well at least for England). I don't know if playing everyone equally would work in the NHL, because with 30 teams you wouldn't really build any kind of rivalry.

    20 teams allows teams to be familiar enough with each other to build that great hate, but 30 puts a damper on that kind of rivalry IMO. That's why I think breaking it down is important.

    Also Euro countries are smaller than the states. England's 20 teams are all geographically closer than the NHL's 30 being spread out. Stuff like time zone consideration, and travel schedule aren't as much of a concern for most Euro based teams (at least not until the Champions league and inter-continental competitions).

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