Sunday, 24 August 2008

Five Ways I'd Change The NHL

One of the messiahs of hockey blogging, Greg Wyshynski, has been getting some fairly big names to weigh in on how they'd change the NHL. He's had former players, well-known bloggers, and mainstream media folk weigh in, and even started a war of words between a reporter and an NHL owner with the five ways people would change the NHL. Now, Puck Daddy is clearly going for those people who work daily in the sport of hockey, and that's cool. It's good to hear how they view the game. Today, however, I would like to present my five ways, and see what people have to say.

In no way is this an attempt to steal Greg's thunder with this fantastic idea. Rather, I just want to get some of these ideas off my chest. Ready? Let's get to it!

1. Embrace the traditional names of the divisions and conferences, and stop insulting the intelligence of the fans. I'm quite aware that New York is on the Atlantic coast. You don't have to tell me that Atlanta is in the Southeast. Oh, and I just found out that Vancouver is in the Northwest after somehow thinking it was in the Central Division.

(a) Look, NHL fans are smart, savvy people. Traditions are held strong in the NHL, so let's go back to the way it was. In fact, with this idea, I can solve four problems at once. Here are my proposed divisions.

Smythe - Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, and Vancouver.
Norris - Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, and St. Louis.
Adams - Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.
Patrick - Atlanta, Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

The Smythe and Norris Divisions would be in the Campbell Conference, and play for the Clarence Campbell Trophy in the playoffs. The Adams and Patrick Divisions would be in the Wales Conference, and play for the Prince of Wales Trophy in the playoffs.

(b) The schedule would be easy to configure. Each team would play teams in their own conference four times (56 games), twice at home and twice on the road.

After that, there would be one game each for teams in the other conference (15 games), with teams alternating between home and road. For example, if Anaheim played Atlanta in Anaheim in season A, they would play in Atlanta in season B. There would be alternating between the teams as well in terms of home and road dates. For example, if Anaheim played Atlanta in Anaheim in season A, Anaheim would play Carolina in Raleigh in season A. This would ensure even coverage of all teams, and allow for fans to see every team at least once within a two-year period.

The last seven games would be against teams in close proximity. This would allow for stronger rivalries to be built, as well as allowing for teams to even out their schedules.

(c) Total number of games per team: 78. The reduction of four games can actually cut a full week to 10 days off the current NHL schedule. Not that I'm complaining, but I'm tired of watching the Stanley Cup Final in 30-degree Celcius heat.

(d) Playoffs are easy to plan. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs. However, for the divisions that have eight teams, if the fifth-place team has more points than the fourth-place team in the seven-team division, the fifth-place team would take the last playoff spot.

For example, Anaheim, San Jose, Calgary and Colorado all qualify for the playoffs from the Smythe. Detroit, Dallas, Minnesota, and Nashville qualify for the playoffs from the Norris. However, Nashville ended the season with 82 points, while fifth-place in the Smythe, Edmonton, finished with 83 points. Edmonton would bump Nashville out due to them having more points in the uneven divisional alignments.

With this idea, the encouragement to win games becomes much more prevalent, and should force teams to play hockey instead of trapping each other to death. Except the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils. I expect they won't change.

2. Expand the ice. Everyone else in the world plays on international-sized ice surfaces. There are complaints about space on the ice from players and fans. So why not go bigger?

Most of the NHL players have played on international-sized ice at some point in their careers, so it's not like this would be a monumental change. If the owners could shut up about losing four rows of luxury seats, this would already have been done. Just make it happen!

3. Make the salary cap work like it's supposed to work! It's a cap. It's not a floating spending amount, and it's not helping a large number of teams. Until the league can figure out how to keep the New York Islanders from losing $25 million in a cap world, it's not working. It's time to fix the cap once and for all. If the players don't like it, there's a Russian league that's dying to sign them. Just don't come crawling back when those teams go bankrupt. If they are truly committed to helping the league get stronger, it's time to trade in the Ferrari for a Volkswagon.

If all the owners can't make money, all the players shouldn't be allowed to make money either.

4. Kill the instigator rule. Now. Do it. I'm still waiting. How long is this going to take?

Look, I'm all for reducing injuries, but it's time for guys like Steve Downie and Jordin Tootoo to start paying for their cheap, ridiculous, unnecessary crap on the ice. While a number of teams have moved away from employing a fighter, nine times out of ten sees a skilled guy jump in to rain blows on the attacker. And, of course, the guy stepping in to defend the victim gets the game misconduct. Fair? Hardly.

With the bad blood spilling over into the next game(s), why not have the players police themselves right there? If you want the players to respect one another, let them earn that respect. Kill the instigator rule, and there will be less "questionable" hits because more people will have their heads on a swivel.

5. Visors are mandatory for everyone, and no-touch icing is a reality. If you're on the ice, you wear a shield. It doesn't matter if you're an official or a player, the NHL needs to protect its most valuable assets. That also means less time on the injury list, and more time in front of the fans.

Look, people can make whatever excuse they want for not wearing a visor, but the evidence is clear that they protect more than they harm. And it's not just me who wants to see changes. If you're not interested in wearing a visor, don't bother showing up for games. It's as simple as that.

As for no-touch icing, the Kurtis Foster accident last season was horrific enough. However, there have been a number of players hurt racing for the puck, and this can be solved by going to the international rule of no-touch icing. How hard is it to adopt this rule? And for the people who find races to eliminate icings "exciting", would you drive your car into a brick wall for the chance to grab $5? Because that's about all an icing call is worth compared to the value of your car. It's the same for NHL players and their worth to their team compared to the value of the icing call.

So those were my five. I'm open to hearing comments, questions, criticisms, and discussion on these five items. Fire me an email if you don't want to leave a message in the comment section. But if I were in charge of the NHL, those are the first five things I'd make changes to before fixing other nuances that need changes.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Chronic Ice Man said...

As a Wings fan, I have saying for years that they need to bring back the original names of the divisions and conferences. But, lets take it one step further. Since Detroit is in the Eastern time zone, they should be relocated to the Prince of Wales conference and all original six teams should be placed in the same division for at least two years( Of course this involves moving Chicago to the Price as well).

Unknown said...

Great ideas on the rule changes. I am def. for the no-touch icing and all players wearing a visor. It's just common sense to be honest. Going back to the old divisions and names could eliminate existing divisional rivalries now, but the league needs as many reasons as it can get to generate more fan interest, esp. in the states and among the "smaller market teams." I have a rule change of my own: automatic double minors for goalie intereference. protect those guys as much as you can! esp. my boy luongo! (ok, i'm a huge canucks fan)

Anonymous said...

The allignment and instigator ideas are great and long overdue. No touch icing would also save a minute or two in game time as well as some player energy. A bigger surface would probably be a disaster though. I've sat in the upper levels of a couple arenas around the league and the sight lines wouldn't support it. Looking between a couple heads of those in front of me, the lowest point I could see was the boards. Wider ice would put all play along the boards out of sight. With regards to owners losing those premium rows, they would just reconfigure their pricing and wind up losing the top few rows in the lower level, not the bottom few rows.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the idea of putting the original six back together. Here is how the alignment would look:

Smythe - Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, and Vancouver.

Norris - Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Adams - Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, NY Rangers, Ottawa, and Toronto.

Patrick - Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

Now there's an alignment I can get behind!!!

Anonymous said...

heres an idea for an even fairer conference setup and for better hockey: get rid of atlanta and phoenix and have four divisions of 7. anon is right sight lines are built in arenas are built specifically for this size arena, updating is very expensive (look at van for the olympics).

TopekaHockeyFan said...

I think that mandatory visors are a great idea, i think we should also look into throat protectors esp. after the incident last year- it is too far easy for someone's throat to get cut. I like the idea of the 4 divisions and I think instead of getting rid of two teams the NHL should add two more- 32 is perfectly divisible by 4. My suggestion would be to put a team in KC- they have a brand new arena and then put the other expansion in an area where hockey has worked in the past- maybe Quebec or Winnipeg.

kate said...

Even geographic names aren't really thought through. It's kinda stupid for Dallas to be in the PACIFIC division when the only ocean Texas has is the Gulf of Mexico which is part of the ATLANTIC ocean. I love that dallas would be with detroit and minnesota. As for an original six division, cool in theory but what about the rest of us :)

No-touch icing and visors are just kinda obvious. Don't a lot of the younger guys wear them anyway? Do you think maybe they would actually redo the divisions like you said cuz that would be sooooooo awesome!