From the "What's new" category, there's been quite a bit of talk lately regarding the configuration of the schedule. But then again, when hasn't there been active talk on this subject? In the past year, the NHL's board of governors approved a modified version in which each team plays at least one game against every other team with the exception of a single division from the other conference. Interconference games are up and that's a good thing. Unfortunately, the league didn't go far enough.
Let's forget for a second the travel logistics and the costs associated with each franchise playing coast to coast every season. Instead, let's think about the fans.
Earlier today, I was listening to Don and EJ on XM Home Ice. Both brought up a great point about the need for a "league wide" system of scheduling. EJ's point was well taken when he talked about Sidney Crosby's appearances in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver last season were reminiscent of the Beatles descending on a city during one of their concert tours back in the 1960's.
It was fun....and it was the way it should always be.
With ticket prices at or above $100 a game in some cities, the league and it's players owe the fans a chance to see the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk and Lecavalier at least once a season.
So how do you do it? Glad you asked.
My suggestion would be to play four home games and four road games against each opponent within your division, then play one home game and one road game against everyone else. That would equal 82 games.
The lopsided slate of divisional games would help promote geographic rivalries, which I believe would be a highlight to local fans. Four home games against the same opponent still factors to less than a game a month based on a six month schedule. To add spice to these tilts, some could be scheduled as home and homes. As for the remainder of games, fans would be able to see every player in the league at least one time each season in their city. Seriously, do Thrashers fans want to see the Islanders and Buffalo two times a season and vice-versa? Wouldn't they rather see them once and guarantee themselves a chance to see every player and team in the league once a season as a trade-off? There's not a team marketing manager that would turn down the opportunity to build a sales campaign around the Pens coming to town on a Saturday night in December. And how does an Ovechkin appearance in Vancouver for a late January weekend showdown on Hockey Night in Canada sound? I actually floated this idea by Lou Lamouriello and Don Waddell a while back and both thought it had merit.
What do you think? Are 8 conference games (4-home, 4-road) too many per season or is it a fair trade-off to be able to see every team once per season?