I must give credit where credit is due. This is my nephew’s idea gone a little wild. But the meat of it comes from a young hockey fan who eats, breathes and sleeps the NHL like his uncle and Dad do. Check this out…
A Different Spin
As we who follow the NHL reorganization question have noted:
– This is forced by the move of Atlanta to Winnipeg.
– It will be solved by the NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in December in order to allow for the 2012-13 scheduling process ample time to work its magic.
– It could be a sweeping change, but two general methods arise as leading candidates: four conferences, two with seven teams and two with eight teams, some of which change from what regionally used to be the old Western Conference to the East; or maintain six divisions of five teams each and move Winnipeg West and either Detroit, Columbus or Nashville East to replace.
There’s one more option to consider, however.
Try the five divisions with six teams option on for size. It can look one of two ways as shown below – either based on shorter regional travel distances in the west, or no-more than two total time zones crossed (unlike Dallas and Minnesota who currently cover three going to the west coast right now).
Option 1 (Shorter Western travel divisions)
The five divisions, because NHL intent is not known, are simply named by region. While the trek is shorter in terms of miles flown, with this organization you still have Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota crossing through three time zones to play. That’s two-plus periods of play difference for starting times, making it difficult to follow your home team on the road for a significant chunk of the season.
Option 2 (Time zone centric divisions)
This option may make frequent flying miles a bit higher in the Western, Central and Mid-West divisions (we really need historical names here, we think). But now no team spans more than two times zones for inter-divisional play. This is our preferred course of action at OGA.
More Meat, Please
Here’s why the emphasis on inter-divisional distances along with where the circles, lines and specifics come in.
We are talking a division-centric reorganization here. Teams play six games against each of the other five teams within their division for 30 of their contests each year. They also play a home-and-away against the other 24 teams in the League each year for an additional 48 games, totaling a 78-game season. Therein lies one stumbling block as it equates to lost revenue for teams to the tune of four games. (If you gotta have the money, then add a seventh game inside the division, raising the total to from 82 to 83 games in a season. But if the AHL is an indicator of the future NHL, the 78-game season is a likely trend here. Team management can go in for dropping salaries a notch based on less games played as a trade off. Something either way would have to give here.)
There are pluses here in that it allows for more recuperation time for players throughout the season. As the saying goes, a team is never healthier than the day their players report for training camp. Spreading 78 games over the same calendar length would benefit players immediately. It is also good for fans who stand a better chance of seeing their favorite players on the ice.
Sticking with the schedule here, it would also be a great opportunity to do as On Goal Analysis (OGA) suggests and play what would be a four-quarter season. If it was this season’s calendar, it could play out like this: the first cross-divisional 12 contests as a home-and-away pair from 5 October through 29 November; a home-away-home triple intra-divisionally 30 November through 3 January for the fans’ holidays; the last 12 cross-divisional home-and-away pairs 6 January through 6 March; and the final divisional ‘triples’ 7 March through 10 April to close out the season. The average days between games for this schedule is 2.384 days to assist recovery. Trust me, it can work on a calendar, you just have to want to schedule it that way.
Now for the post-season. The interesting proposition here is for the top two teams standing-wise in each division to faceoff in Round 1 (blue circles) plus the next highest six teams playing in a Wild Card-type match-up (red circles). Using last season’s standings, Option 1 first round matchups would have looked like this:
Division Leaders: CHI @ VAN; ANA @ SJS; NSH @ TBL; PHI @ WSH; and BOS @ DET
Wild Cards: DAL @ PIT; BUF @ PHX; and MTL @ LAK
A couple of observations need to be brought up here. The match-ups are different than last year, but the only team in the playoffs who was not already there is DAL for NYR. In the scheme of things, it means that the top 16 teams points-wise across the League would have made it in. This rewards hard play for each and every points. (Sorry Rangers fans – I am one, too.)
These first round matchups are different in every case except CHI @ VAN. The advantage is to be one of the top two in your division so travel is more limited. The Wild Card teams’ first round has two of three combinations crossing three or more time zones. For the sake of less fatigue, you fight harder to be in the top two of the division to start the playoffs.
In all respects, competition in the division means something more than it does now.
For future rounds, you simply re-seed on points with the number eight team the visitor to number one and so on. If you stick with the home team winning every series from last year, you have the rounds play out as follows:
Round 2: LAK @ VAN; PHX @ WSH; TBL @ PIT; and DET @ SJS
Round 3: SJS @ VAN and PIT @ WSH
Finals: WSH @ VAN (I know, Caps fans – you are liking this possibility.)
Option 2 run the same way would look a bit different. Note, however, it still encompasses the same 16 teams as Option 1, rewarding them for the good regular season fight:
Round 1 – Division Leaders: SJS @ VAN; DAL @ PHX; NSH @ TBL; PHI @ WSH; and BOS @ DET
Wild Cards: BUF @ PIT; MTL @ ANA; and CHI @ LAK
There are no initial matchups like last season. Further rounds with re-seeding by points and the home team winning each pairing would look like this:
Round 2: LAK @ VAN; PHX @ WSH; ANA @ PIT; and TBL @ DET
Round 3: DET @ VAN and PIT @ WSH
Finals: WSH @ VAN
Make no mistake, this option of five-by-six is a regional-centric answer. That is better for player travel, recuperation time, and fan viewing.
In this option, you just sit back and watch the compete level for each and every win ramp up to another level. As always, we recommend serious consideration to the home-and-away pairs cross-divisionally and home-away-home/away-home-away triples within the division. This is for the sake of greater competition and focuses on making fans rabid for what in effect becomes mini-playoff series throughout the year. There is no game here that is a throw away for any team. Per Ben Stiller’s line from ‘Starsky and Hutch’ , “…Do it. DO it….”
And we might add of the two options, our preference is for Option 2, the Time Zone Centric Realignment.
To my nephew/Big Tex’s son, good on ya’ my boy.