Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
We can all agree that there's no way the lockout ends in time for Gary Bettman's fictional 82-game full season, right?
They'd have to agree to the new CBA, like, as I'm writing this, for the Nov. 2 cutoff date to be met; and even then, it might be a stretch.
I know the League canceled the dates — not the games, an important distinction — through Nov. 1 on Friday. There are also rumors that when the next batch of cancellations comes, it could be larger than the two preceding it. At this point, I think I'm starting to be fine with that, because I came to the realization that a season shortened by 24 games could make for the best one ever.
I decided the other day that what I'd really like to see — and I know it'll never ever happen for a bunch of reasons — is for the NHL to go to a 58-game schedule, just this once. In it, each team could play every other team in the league twice, once at home, and once on the road. In a league that loves reminding everyone about its competitive balance, what better schedule could exist than that?
It solves a lot of problems about competitive balance as well. No longer would the Canucks, for example, get to beat up on Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota and Colorado a combined 24 games a season as a means of padding their Presidents Trophy credentials while teams in the Central play their way through a 24-date divisional meat grinder.
This way, all 30 teams' playing field for making the playoffs and racking up wins over the course of a season becomes as level as it can possibly be.
(Coming Up: More Alex Ovechkin threats; Pascal Dupuis is fiscally responsible; Nik Kronwall, next captain of the Red Wings?; Predators talk lockout with fans; Don Cherry high on Habs; Islanders to Staten Island; Rich Clune picks the wrong fight; getting Scott Gomez to the Flames; goalie issues for the Blue Jackets and Flyers; and a beautiful goal from the NCAA.)
The Jets play the Oilers just as much as the Kings play the Panthers, and there can be little complaining about strength of schedule. Of course, injuries and other factors will play a part in individual contests, but over the course of 58 games, it works itself out.
This also preserves the slight randomness of what a shorter season can do to get teams into the playoffs when they otherwise might not have. The thing to remember is that playing 82 games gives you a really good idea of teams who deserve to be in the playoffs, so by definition playing 29 percent or so fewer makes it easier for more chaos.
Perhaps one reason it'll never happen is, of course, that teams will object to all the travel.
Even one two-week road trip that bumps six or seven Western Conference road opponents off the docket for teams in the East will be trying, and you know the Red Wings will have a lot to say about all of it as well. This also disproportionately plays to the advantage of Western Conference teams because when they come to the East Coast, they won't have nearly as much travel to deal with going from one city to the next. The NHLPA would probably kick up a bit of a stink about that, and the owners won't be happy to foot the bill for all that jet fuel.
The other issues is that games like, say, Toronto versus Montreal or Detroit versus Chicago (and so forth) are a big deal for this League; and only having two of them a year doesn't make much sense from either a publicity or financial perspective. That, and geography, are why so many long-time rivals are grouped together in the same division, and why there's an unbalanced schedule in the first place.
The upside, though, is that every fanbase gets to see every one of the league's best players and teams. No waiting another two years to see the Oilers kids, or Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You want to grow the game again? Make sure every fan gets an eyeful of the very best the league has to offer. This could also increase the potential for those home-and-home grudge matches for closer-together teams that don't always get to play each other.
There's no reason at all, for example, you couldn't have a Thursday/Saturday series between Pittsburgh and Detroit. And that would rule.
Again, it would be interesting to see the NHL adopt the schedule-making policies of other leagues, like those in soccer, just for a year. It works very, very well over there, and could work just as well here.
Of course, given that it makes even a little bit of sense, we can all rest assured that it can't happen. Not with these guys in charge.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Ducks prospect Nic Kerdiles had his full-season suspension reduced to 10 games by the NCAA, and an Anaheim executive says that's enough for the kid to stay in school and not jump to major juniors. Nonetheless, he won't get to start his freshman season until the end of November.
Boston Bruins: Here's a video of the Kings' Rich Clune biting off way more than he can chew in a game that ended up being Providence's first win of the season. Bobby Robins delivered a savage beating here.