As we all know, the NHL Board of Governors approved a realignment plan by an overwhelming 26-4 vote. This realignment is more revolutionary than evolutionary, which is not what Big Leagues normally do in the course of conducting operations. But for the most part, everyone in NHL management is happy.
We fans should be happy as well considering we now have the ability to see every team in our local barn during the course of the season. The at-least-home-and-away pair against everyone in the League answers our clarion call. Regionally, that will happen more than once, something good for TV viewership and players in general as shorter hops make for more rest and recuperation.
And the organization into two eight team divisions and two seven team divisions allows for future expansion as it becomes reality.
Here at On Goal Analysis, we looked at what the 2012-13 schedule might look like. And as we did, we applied some ideas we have had for a while that seem to fit into this realignment plan very well. We tell you what this means in relatively quick order by discussing schedule notes and providing two graphical courses of action for the entire 2012 season.
Overall Pairs and Triples Notes
Here are quick notes on how our ideal season would play out:
- Our primary goal is to see Crosby, Ovechkin, Toews, Kane, Stamkos and the other stars/favorites whenever they come into our building. So an emphasis needs to be given to rest and recuperation (R&R) time for players. In light of this fact, no team ever plays more than three games in one week (Monday through Sunday) and no more than four consecutive games on the road or at home in a stretch.
- The secondary goal is to organize play in home-and-away pairs (whenever possible) and three-game mini-series (triples) to both underscore the importance of winning Division (/Conference) games and always provide a playoff-like atmosphere for fans. Think here a ‘Hated Red Wings’ week for Blackhawk fans or a semaine de bataille between Montreal and Boston.
- Training camp and pre-season are earlier than normal running from 27 AUG to 7 SEP. To aid in player R&R, however, no team can schedule more than five exhibition games.
- It takes 29 Weeks to play out the regular season from 10 SEP – 31 MAR. That’s right – our regular season is complete at the end of March when there is still snow on the ground in many northern climes. This includes shorter weeks with two-day Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks and a long weekend for the All Star Game.
- The Playoffs’ four rounds run from 1 APR to 30 MAY as follows:
RND 1 – 1 to 14 APRIL
RND 2 – 16 to 29 APRIL
RND 3 – 1 to 14 MAY
RND 4 – 17 to 30 MAY
Thus, the playoffs end with most American school years. Too early to start the season? Then execute training camp/pre-season 10 – 21 SEP, the regular season 24 SEP – 13 APR and the playoffs from 14 APR – 13 JUN similar to how the season already runs.
We prefer the earlier schedule, going head-to-head against American football. Brazen and bold for the fastest sport without a combustible engine on the face of the earth, will continue to win over more fans.
6. The eight-team Division breakdown:
a. If you are reading this and are not yet sold on the whole idea, one important thing to glean from this blog is how to break down play for the eight-team divisions with the requirement to play some teams six times and others five over the course of the season. Sound confusing? We say it is this simple:
The eight team divisions break down nicely into two groups of four teams, all within one or two time zones (hours) of each other. They also break down further into pairs of regional teams that equal short travel hops out, between and then back home for games. Within the geographical region (‘Geo 1’, ‘Geo 2’, etc.) in which teams are assigned, all opponents are played six times each in two series of triples. Teams in the opposite ‘Geo’ in the division are played in one home-and-away pair and one triple. (The two, seven-team divisions do not have this scheduling issue.)
b. How can we call the schedule now in the two examples below? We haven’t even talked arena availability yet. This is the best part for teams. Except for the fact teams must play HOME (‘v’) or AWAY(‘a’) as scheduled and no more than two games may be played back-to-back on consecutive nights, the actual schedule for the week is thrown to the two teams in question to determine which days of that week they actually play. The League intervenes where teams cannot come to a mutual agreement. (We fully note this may potentially create a lot of Friday/Saturday and/or Saturday/Sunday pairs of games. But if that is what sells tickets, no worries, eh?)
7. To make the schedule work, during the course of the season all teams receive about 1.5 weeks of time with no games played. While it breaks game-playing rhythm, it nonetheless assists in player R&R requirements.
Let’s now turn to a look at the 2012-13 NHL Season in two courses of action (COA’s) for execution.
The 2012-13 NHL Schedule – COA 1
Here is how the regular season plays out in COA 1:
In effect this is a three-part season. Past I consists of intra-‘Conference’ pairs and/or triples taking place from the season opener through Thanksgiving in Week 11 of our preferred, longer season.
Part Two is Weeks 12 – 22 including Christmas and All Star Game weekend.
And the season closes out in Part Three over Weeks 23 – 29 as intra-‘Conference’ pairs and/or triples again.
This comes off the starting blocks emphasizing how important play is within the Division / ‘Conference’ with what are four-point games for all practical purposes.
In the middle part of the season and through the holidays, fans are treated to the home-and-away pairs against every other team in the ‘other Conference.’ This is when the West sees Crosby, Ovechkin and Stamkos and the East sees Kane and Toews (amongst others).
And the season closes with intra-divisional pairs and/or triples, leaving fans with a playoff-like experience even though their team may not be going on to the post-season. And there is also no doubt which teams should go on to the post-season.
What about scheduling issues? How do the Blackhawks handle the annual Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus shutdown next 14 – 25 NOV for example? (It can be) Easy – they work with the Circus to give them 19 and 20 NOV in exchange for games 26 and 27 November in the United Center. They then play their home games versus CGY and EDM on 19 and 20 NOV respectively, at EDM somewhere between 23 and 25 NOV, and then back home versus NYI and NYR between 28 and 30 NOV and at NYI 1 or 2 DEC. While there is a business cost involved there, it is a way to get it done and maintain the NHL’s intent.
The 2012-13 NHL Schedule – COA 2
This COA is our favorite, although standing as only a slight modification of COA 1. This modification breaks the League’s schedule down into four parts. Part One consists of half of the out-of Division /’Conference’ games in Weeks 1 through 6. This allows for teams to get their playing chemistry together before hitting a stretch of ‘four point games’ against divisional foes.
Part Two is through the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’) in Weeks 7 – 17. This is a special treat as it wraps up round one of intra-Divisional/’Conference’ pairs/triples in arguably the most important games on the docket.
Part Three is the last half of the out-of-Division/’Conference’ package of games in Weeks 18 through 22. It culminates with All Star Game weekend.
And Part Four closes out the regular season with round two of intra-Divisional/’Conference’ pairs/triples in Weeks 23 through 29. Again, we have weeks of a playoff-like atmosphere in every NHL city.
In this COA, the Blackhawks’ Circus dilemma is now with WPG, MIN and STL, but the process for solving it is the same as in COA 1. Teams need to negotiate with other arena tenants and the NHL needs only make the teams negotiate actual game days within the prescribed week and adjudicate when necessary.
So here at OGA, we ask the NHL to take the realignment plan one step further in the 2012-13 schedule and give us home-and-away pairs and three-game mini-series in no more than three games per week in order to give us the star players on the ice when they come to our barn and enhance the emotion of series as they play out.
What is your ideal season?