by Dr.Joey Only
To put this in laymens terms the NHL has decided to change the set up of the league so that there are four conferences now, each being more geographically specific than is currently the case. So the league would look more like this:
* New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina
* Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay
* Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg
* Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado
Obviously trying to keep the travel schedules and rivalries based on geography makes more sense than back in the days when Montreal and Los Angeles were in the same conference. This much I have no problem with, what I don’t like is the idea that’s been floated for the Stanley Cup playoffs. To quote http://www.mapleleafs.com :
“The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.”
What I find problematic with this is that it could lead to a situation where the best teams aren’t being rewarded. Say there’s a conference where there are only two teams above .500 and the rest are terrible. Then at the same time you have another conference where all the teams do really well but only four of them make the playoffs. You would have poor teams being rewarded over better teams which makes no sense to me whatsoever. I think alternately we should keep a West and East Conference with the top 8 teams in each making the big show in April, and go with a 4 division format instead where the two best teams in each division are gauranteed the top 4 spots.
I take this logic from years of watching baseball and seeing teams with records below the Toronto Blue Jays making the playoffs because their entire division is terrible. What compounds this is that the Jays play the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox sixteen times each which often negatively affected their record. At the same time you have a poor team in a very weak division playing weaker teams repeatedly. Divisional play can be really exciting, but I think the point of sports is to reward the winners, or those most capable of winning.
The one thing the NHL has right regards balancing the schedule so that every team plays every team at least twice. It made no sense to me in the past why the Leafs had to play good teams in the northeast 8 times in years past yet would not make a west coast trip to play one game against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Scheduling like this, and in baseball as well, skews the statistics so that you really don’t know how well a team would have done if they were given the chance to showcase themselves against every team.
Furthermore, I can’t understand why the NHL Board didn’t adopt no touch icing. Just tonight Michael Del Zotto took a nasty spill against David Steckel trying to reach an iced puck in the Rangers/Leafs tilt. It’s the one thing I think the NHL has to change if they want to keep preaching players safety as a priority. The problem with the NHL is they are always tinkering with the game and changing it, sometimes for the better granted. Look at baseball whose rules haven’t changed much in 120 years, there’s something stable about a game that doesn’t try reinvent itself in a reactionary way whenever someone thinks Americans will like the game if there’s more goals…or what have you.
The game is fine…let them play. Where do all these changes end? Will I recognize my game in 30 years or will it be completely different. Will it be different for the better or will it be different to market and cater to American audiences. For Bettman to have allowed Winnipeg to get a team again must have felt bitter, it was the moment he realized that his whole marketing scheme was a failure and that only northerners truly understand the game, we like it the way it is and there’s very little wrong with it. That’s my three cents….