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originally posted on calling audibles.
I know a lot of people don't care about hockey. I am not trying to convince anyone to watch or like it with this post. I really don't care. This is my personal opinion about how the game and league could be better for the fans that do watch and the fans that would like to watch. Some people (Most people) don't like hockey, nothing is going to change that. Thats fine, I hate the NBA and will never watch that. And I am fine with that, and I am fine with many people hating hockey and the NHL. That is your choice, this post is for fans and people who like hockey but think the NHL is missing something.
I have a plan that would return the game to previous success as far as competition and emotion is concerned. Hockey is not Basketball, you can not focus attention or advertising on single players. They are just not on the ice enough. Some of the best scorers in the game only play 18-20 minutes a game, compared to 35+ for some NBA players. So please NHL stop pushing the individuals. I know some of them are great, Sidney Crosby, Alexander "Ovie Wan Kenovi" Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg, and Ilya Kovalchuk are probably the top draws. But I wouldn't go to a game just to see them play, I want more. I want hard hitting, fast paced hockey against teams that really don't like each other. I want to go watch a game that reminds me of Detroit vs Colorado in the mid 90s. Two teams that just want to beat the crap out of each other.
That is my plan here. To realign and reorganize the league. The AHL has the setup I am looking for, 2 conferences and 4 divisions. They also have the rivalries that make the games great. I live near Hershey and when the Wilkes-Barre Penguins or Philly Phantoms come to town, you can't get a ticket to the game. Thats what the NHL needs. Are there any rivalries like that now? I don't think so, other than Canadian teams and there hate for each other. But that is what the NHL needs.
The Plan: Rivalry Creation
'Step 1: Expansion'
First things first, the league wants to expand. For everyone who thinks they are nuts, attendance and revenues are up across the league, so it isn't really a bad idea. Expand to 32, add 2 teams. The talk has been Vegas and Kansas City, so thats what we will use. There have been others mentioned, like Portland, Oregon, but it really doesn't matter. After adding the teams, lets realign.
'Step 2: Realignment'
Atlantic Divsion - Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and Boston Bruins.
Other Division(name TBD) - Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Central Division - Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Kansas City.
Pacific Division - Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, LA Kings, and Las Vegas.
Those divisions keep the old rivalries alive while creating new ones like Kansas City/St Louis, or Philly/Wash. Good teams playing each other for division supremacy. It will make for great physical hockey all season long.
'Step 3: The Schedule'
Each division would play 2 against the other division in the conference, 1 at home, 1 away. They would also play the other conference, the entire conference, 1 division at home, the other away. Then they would play 3 home, 3 away against their division rivals. That would leave 8 more games and I think they should play half of each division in the opposing conference again, opposite location of previous game.
Detroit would play 6 games against each team in the Central, 2 against each team in the Pacific, 1 at each team in the Atlantic, and 1 at home against each team in the Other Division. Then they would have 4 games at home against Atlantic teams and 4 games on the road against the Other division teams.
Following me so far?
'Step 4: The Playoffs'
Instead of seeding based on conference, it is all division. This is where rivalries start so why not have these teams playing each other every year in the playoffs. The top 4 teams from each division make the playoffs. They play a first round series against division opponents, then a division championship and then the conference championship before the Stanly Cup playoffs. I know that some teams will get upset because they have more points than the 4th team in another division, but so what, too bad. This will create great rivalries.
After all that, I think the rivalries will be better and more meaningful. I would keep most of the division games for the end of the season. Play 2 against each opponent in the division before the All Star break and 4 after. This will keep the rivalries and meaningful games heated going into the playoffs.
For anyone (most of you probably) who does not follow the AHL, you don't know how well this system works. I know the AHL does it more to keep travel costs down, but the rivalries are intense. Even the fans from opposing teams don't like each other. There is some of that in the NHL but not enough. Lets get some more of that. Good Old-Fashioned NHL HATE!!