In this installment, I would like to discuss change. Yes, our beloved Avalanche club looks a lot different now and the team has changed dramatically since even last year, but the change I would like to speak of is with the league itself. What can the NHL do, what can they change, to make the league a “premiere” sports league? Because, let’s face it – the other “Big 3” sports leagues have enjoyed the lion’s share of the spotlight for as long as I can remember!!! Is there anything that the NHL can do to compete? Is it even possible to compete with the popularity of the NFL, NBA and MLB? What can they do to draw in more fans???
Well, my first suggestion has to do with the realigning the conferences and divisions. Everyone in the blog and sports writing world seem to believe that this is coming – sooner or later – but I have yet to see anyone come up with a real plan. So, here is what I have in mind – based on geographic locations and time zones. I would turn it into a 4 division league, 2 in the west (Pacific & Central) and 2 in the east (Northeast & Atlantic). Let me know if you agree!!!
Pacific Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Central Division: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Northeast Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Toronto
Atlantic Division: Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
So, I split up the Pennsylvania and New York teams, simply to make it more interesting and to even out the divisions, but I suppose they could be interchangeable. Also, you’ll notice that Detroit is now in the east and Winnipeg is now in the west. This makes perfect sense, and don’t say that it doesn’t. Now, don’t whine and cry that some of those eastern teams would have to travel south to play Tampa or Florida – what the hell do you think Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton have to do out west every year!!! Anyway, I think these divisions would be very competitive and create some new rivalries. Yes, they’re uneven (that’s what happens when you have 15 teams per conference), but for playoff purposes, take the top team in each division and the next best six in each conference.
Now let’s talk about a balanced schedule. I think the NHL would be more attractive to the general public if the teams were actually allowed to play every other team in the league at least twice, like a home-and-home deal. I know for a fact that I would LOVE to see every eastern conference team visit Pepsi Center at least once during the course of the regular season. So, let’s do the math. If the Avalanche plays every club in the league twice, you’ve got 58 games. Then, if the boys play their conference rivals another 2 times each, add 28 games for a total of 86. That’s it! 86 games instead of 82. 4 additional games to have a bit of balance in the league would be awesome, don’t you think? Of course, I’m sure those extra 4 games per year would be a point of contention between the league and the player’s union…
Next, let’s tackle a few of the league rules that I think need to be changed, beginning with that lame-ass trapezoid thing behind the goals. Wouldn’t it be a lot more exciting if the netminders were allowed to play the puck in the corners again? I remember when Patrick Roy used to grab the biscuit in the corner and launch a monster pass up the boards to a waiting Valerie Kamensky – catching the opposition completely off-guard during a line change! What’s so wrong with that and why did they install that trapezoid thing in the first place?!?!? Big mistake if you ask me…
An additional rule change I would consider is going to the NCAA no-touch icing. It would definitely speed up the game, it would make for better game flow, and most importantly, it would reduce the amount of bone crushing, brain bashing blasts along the end boards. I realize that most fans want to see these guys get crushed against the boards, but come on, the amount of concussions and career ending injuries have skyrocketed in recent years. These guys are getting bigger and faster and anything that can reduce injuries would be positive in my book.
What about the power plays? What can we do to make them a bit more interesting? Well, a couple ideas that are floating around the blogosphere are (1)going back to a “2-minute major” and (2) “icing on the killing team”. In a 2-minute major situation, it would be just like any other “MAJOR” penalty = you’ve got 2 minutes to score as many goals as you can while you are a man-up. This could generate quite a bit more offense and I think it would be pretty exciting! The only question is – what infractions would constitute a “2-minute major” penalty? Good luck figuring that out… The icing call on the penalty killing team would be awful. Could you imagine trying to kill a penalty and not being allowed to ice the puck after gaining possession? Not sure how many of you readers out there actually play this game we call hockey, but icing the puck while killing a penalty is sometimes your only option! Definitely throw that one out…
So, let me know what you think! How would you realign the conferences and divisions? Do you think they need to be realigned? What rules would you change, if any? Looking forward to your input!!!