So the NHL govenors met this week to discuss making changes to the NHL schedule but came up with no solution so for now we are stuck with what we have got. Some teams want more interconference play, some teams want none at all. My problem with the schedule is that the teams who are competing with each other to make the playoffs play significantly different schedules. The northeast division may have 5 of the top 8 teams in the eastern conference but because they play each other 8 times, it is unlikely that they will all make the playoffs while a lesser team from the Atlantic or Southeast divisions would make the playoffs. If you are a fan of having the best teams in the playoffs then this is not an ideal solution.
One method to fix this problem was to have 10 teams from each conference make the playoffs with a 3 game series of seed #7 vs #10 and #8 vs #9 with the winners making the round of 8 in each conference. I have mixed feelings on this because I think enough teams already make the playoffs but it does allow for teams punished by a tougher schedule to prove themselves in this short series.
Tom Benjamin has offered up some ideas himself but I’d like to take a different tact in fixing the schedule. Why do we need a 100% fixed, set in stone schedule? Why not allow teams to set a portion of their schedule themselves? Here is what I am proposing:
Each conference plays every other team in their conference 4 times. With 14 other teams in the conference this would equate to 56 conference games. Each team would then play every team in the other conference once per season. By playing every other team once per season and alternating home vs road games every other year, every team will play in every city in the other conference at least every other year. Not every year will Sidney Crosby visit Calgary but every year he will play Calgary and every other year he will play in Calgary. Adding the 15 interconferene games to the 56 conference games we now have a total of 71 games. Now to get the schedule up to 82 games like we currently have, the teams will be allowed to schedule the other 11 games however they see fit with the condition that no more than 2 games can be played against the same team (i.e. The Rangers won’t be able to play the Islanders all 11 games). So, for example, Toronto could play those 11 games using a 3 game road trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, 2 extra games againt Ottawa, Montreal and Buffalo and maybe a couple of original 6 games against Detroit and Chicago. I know as a Leaf fan I’d rather see a few more games against teams like Detroit than 8 games against Boston (5 in one month is rediculous). Los Angeles could play Anaheim and San Jose a couple of extra games or maybe start a cross country big city rivalry with the New York Rangers by playing an extra couple of games each season. The 4 teams in the southeast (Tampa, Florida, Atlanta and Carolina) could focus on playing each other and developing those rivalries further and could even bring Nashville into the mix. Teams could choose to have playoff re-matches whether they face a team they met in the playoffs the previous years playoffs to renew hostilities. With 11 free games teams would have a ton of options on how to develop rivalries and promote their team.
At the end of the season all teams will have played 82 games and the top 8 teams in each conference make the playoffs and the playoffs get played just as they do now.
What does everyone think?