August 13, 2008
Every weekday in August, Puck Daddy presents "5 Ways I'd Change the NHL," in which a cross-section of sports media and hockey personalities offer solutions, suggestions and absurdities to remake the League to their liking. We're thrilled to have Ross McKeon, NHL editor for Yahoo! Sports, contributing his list today ...
By Ross McKeon
1. Less is more: We're talking contraction here, fewer teams means better quality of play and so much more. Ding six franchises to get the league down to 24 teams (12 per conference, six in each of four divisions). Who goes? Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators. Hey, look at that, no more Southeast Division.
2. Less is still more: Now that we have fewer teams, let's trim a few games -- an 82-game schedule shrinks to 78 per team (936 games for the regular season instead of the current 1,230). Why? Shortening the regular season means the playoffs start earlier and end earlier. That means the ice will be better at the most important time of the year, there should be fewer injuries, more time to recover between games, less back-to-backs and the off-season can be, maybe, two weeks longer. The new 78-game schedule features home-and-away against every team in the opposite conference (24 games total); four games vs. every team in other division of same conference (24 games total) and six games each against the other five teams in your division (30 total). A totally balanced schedule and every team plays at least once in every city every year. What a concept!
3. New playoff format, sort of: Sixteen teams -- eight from each conference -- will still advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs in our new, condensed world, but the new division alignment (four instead of the current six) will return the importance and significance of division play. Why? Because instead of allowing the top three division winners and next-best five point totals from each conference into the dance, the top four point totals in each division qualify. Everything else remains the same -- all series are best-of-seven, re-seed after each round and open with the same match-ups: Nos. 1-8, Nos. 2-7, Nos. 3-6 and Nos. 4-5.
4. White out: I just can't get used to the home team wearing dark sweaters. Go back to home-team whites, and do it now.
5. Minimize the gimmicks: Do we really need teams opening the season in Europe every season? The Winter Classic is nice, but don't overdo it. Has the NHL All-Star Game, in its current bogus format featuring a no-touch game the day after a dreadful skills event, run its course? New rule changes almost every year? Bigger nets? Please, stop the insanity.
Ross McKeon covered the San Jose Sharks and the National Hockey League at the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner for 17 years; or seven Sharks coaches. Coming up on Thursday: Chris Botta, former VP of media relations for the New York Islanders.