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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

05/06 NHL Schedule: My Take

The NHL released it's 05/06 schedule today, and in the words of Guido the garbage man: "It really stinks."

This is how the NHL pays back the seventeen fans it has left? With all of the NHL's jabbering about fixing the game and making it more fan friendly, which one would reasonably think should include marketing the snot out of it, the best the NHL think-tanks can come up with is this flaming dung-muffin.

There is now a major emphasis on inter-conference play, more specifically inter-divisional play. Don't get me wrong, this has it's potential upsides, such as building strong rivalries and limiting travel time and expenses. But how much is too much? Especially when it means sacrificing exposure to most of the other conference's teams.

For example, the Vancouver Canucks will play the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche eight times each. I like the idea of building strong rivalries, but be realistis here, I don't think that you need to play 8 games against one team to do it. In total, that means that 32 games are spent on 4 divisional teams. That's 40% of the schedule burned.

Some may say that the added divisional emphasis is long overdue. But, keep in mind that it comes with a price tag. A steep one. There will be no visits to Canuck-ville (or many Western teams) from the likes of Mario Lemieux, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and the defeding Cup Champs, Dan Heatley & Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur, Alexander Ovechkin, and more importantly, the NHL's new poster child, Sidney Crosby.

As a fan of hockey in general, I'm a little ticked off. As a fan of the Canucks, I'm downright choked.

Added to the idea of rivalry building, there seems to be a new "series" concept to the new schedule. There will be several instances where two teams will play back-to-back games - or a mini-series, for lack of a better term. In the case of the Canucks:

Canucks Rivalry Dates:
October 12 & 14 - Back-to-back road series vs. Minnesota
October 27 & 29 - Back-to-back road series vs. Colorado
November 5 & 7 - Back-to-back road series vs. Calgary
November 27 & 30 - Road and home series vs. Colorado
December 23 & 25 - Back-to-back home series vs. Calgary
March 21, 23, 25 - Three-game series vs. Edmonton beginning at home, followed by two road games
March 11 & 13 - Home and road series vs. Dallas
March 29 & 31 - Back-to-back home series vs. Minnesota
April 12 & 13 - Back-to-back home and road games vs. San Jose

I'm not completely opposed to this concept, but at present it doesn't really blow me away either. I'll have to see how it plays out before I decide what to think. I'm not so sure that a string of games should be played with the same two teams - that's more suited to the playoffs. But, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

So those are my thoughts. To see an Ottawa persepective - Hockey Country offers some insight.


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