Friday, November 30, 2007

New Schedule

As you've probably heard, the NHL announced the long expected change to the scheduling of games to start next season.

It's kind of like (but not exactly) what I proposed back in September:

Every team plays a home and home with the other conference (15 x 2 =30 games). Each team plays their 4 division opponents 6 times: 3 at home, 3 away (6 x 4 = 24 games). Each team plays their other 10 conference opponents 3 times: 2 home, 1 away one year. flipped the next (10 x 3 = 30 games)

My idea was the exact thing the players association proposed, though I doubt they stole it from me....

What the NHL has approved though did not add two more games (as me and the players came up with), so not every team will visit every city every year. But at least it's every other year and not some weird once every three years thing like in the past. Here's the new and "improved" format:

Eeach team play[s] 24 divisional games, 40 in-conference matchups, 15 games against non-conference teams and three wild card games against out of conference teams.

This de-emphasizes the divisional matchups; a team will only play them 6 times (instead of the current 8) but the out-of-division conference matchups remain at 4. I suppose this is a good change, it's not fun to sit through 8 games against the Devils or Islanders. And it's really not fun for teams in the Pacific division or Southeast who don't really have natural "regional" rivals. Yeah, those Washington-Miami matchups and Phoenix-Dallas ones just don't hit the spot eight times a year.

But this doesn't accomplish what the fans wanted: the chance to see every team (and the marquee players) come to your city once a year. Sure this change is an improvement over the current setup--now it will be every other year, but it's a change that doesn't really satisfy any of the principals. So what's the point?

And I'm curious to see how the "wildcard" games are allotted. Will a strong team with a strong fanbase (like, say Detroit) be playing a marquee out-of-conference game (such as Ottawa) for the sake of a solid matchup? Or will the NHL send them to a place like Washington or Florida that doesn't really draw well, but would on a night with a team like the Red Wings (and their spread out fan base) coming to town?

It once again comes down to the old $$$ versus the best hockey action possible. And, of course, if you get the good "wildcard" matchups like Detroit-Ottawa that means at the other end of the spectrum you'll inevitably be stuck with a team like Edmonton or Phoenix going to Florida, where the crowds would probably draw more folks to see another divisional matchup against a familiar foe like Tampa Bay.

As you can see, it gets complicated and with 3 of these wildcard games and the already difficult logsitcal nightmare of scheduling games anyways, I'm guessing you'll probably see a pretty decent mix of some solid matchups plus some games that just look like revenue boosters for non-traditional hockey markets....I mean with this much complexity, plus the "parody" of teams playing at a SC Finals level one year and then not making the playoffs the next it's tough to tell. But some indicators, regardless of tough to forecast future outcomes will be obvious. If you see Detroit playing in Washington, Florida and Long Island next season, and Toronto in places like Nashville and Columbus then I think you'll know.

Should be interesting to keep an eye on. Somehow I think I know the answer to the $$$ v. good hockey matchup. (Hint: it's the NHL).

Obvious but perhaps necessary note: None of this is meant to take shots at markets like Miami, Nashville, Washington, Phoenix or anyone else. But traditional attendance figures and revenues "are what they are" as the saying goes.

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