I know I am in the minority when it comes to North American Hockey opinion on this, but I actually like the idea of regular season hockey games in Europe. I think the European market is the next frontier in building the sport and I think it's inevitable that at some point the NHL will have franchises in Europe. I also think this will be a good thing.
However, right now the NHL is still struggling to gain mainstream success here in the states. They should be looking to make a splash whenever they can, and Opening weekend is the time to make such a splash. Opening weekend is a time of limitless optimism and celebrating the return of your sport. It's difficult to celebrate that when it takes place across an ocean.
Opening weekend should be in North America, with as many games planned in a 4-day span. 2 Prime matchups Thurs and Friday night, and a full slate of games Saturday and Sunday. The hockey fan just went though the hot, unforgiving summer desert of hockey, and should be given the opportunity to gorge on a buffet of hockey like a kid at Country Buffet after a summer at fat camp. Let people enjoy opening weekend here where your fanbase is first.
Let's call a spade a spade and call the European games what they are... a gimmick. In mid February, when we have stuffed ourselves on a plethora of games, is the time to introduce a little gimmickry into the fold. Get people talking about the European games and what it means for the teams involved. Is the travel going to take it's toll (is that just a built in excuse?). Mid February is the time to send teams to Europe on a little road trip.
P.S. I don't want to hear one "But the travel will be unfair in February" here. People fly and travel internationally, thousands of miles, in order to work the next day all the time. They also fly coach and stay at 2-star hotels. NHL players travel first class, on chartered jets, and stay at nice hotels. I've said it 100 times, but I'll say it again. In 1958 the LA Dodgers and SF Giants were the only two baseball teams West of the Mississippi river. Travel in 1958 was much worse than it is these days. Yet they still managed to be competitive. If they can do it.. todays NHL players can do it without complaint. Give a team a couple extra days off between games and they will be just fine.