The NHL Schedule has been a hot topic of debate over the last couple of days. There are conflicting reports and rumors about what changes may or may not happen regarding the schedule for next season.
According to a report in Sportico, the NHL is looking to overhaul its scheduling by adding more rivalry games and easing travel demands to increase revenue across the league.
We have seen the NHL try this before with the idea of “rivalry games.” Rivalry games have to happen organically. These games can’t be forced. Remember there is a reason why the NHL switched back to a divisional playoff format, so they could create more rivalries because to quote Commissioner Bettman “rivalries are built in the playoffs.”
However, according to the report the idea of adding more divisional or “rivalry games” comes from the COVID season of 2020/21. In addition, if the NHL were to switch to this format this would ease travel demands on some teams and generate more money for teams across the league.
Again with a 32-team league that is spread out of Canada and the United States, it is hard to accommodate every team.
What the NHL should do is schedule smarter not harder. For example take the Dallas Stars for instance, who are mentioned in the article. If they went on a road trip on the East Coast, it could start in Boston and end in Pittsburgh with stops in New York (2), New Jersey, and Philadelphia.
Again it is tough for teams to be on the road that long, but it is better than going from New York to Pittsburgh to New Jersey to Washington to Columbus. That is how to schedule teams smarter.
Sportico reports this item has been discussed amongst owners and executives over the past few months. It was even discussed last month at the general managers’ meetings in Toronto and brought up at this past week’s Board of Governors meeting, But according to TSN Darren Dreger on TSN Radio on Friday, “while every team comes in with an item to discuss, this was just a 20-30 second conversation.”
However, this was not the end of the NHL schedule talk. Greg Wyshynski of ESPN published an article on Friday stating the NHL has discussed the idea of expanding its regular season from 82 to 84 games in an effort to create more regional rivalry matchups.
According to his sources, the league has been considering alternatives to its current schedule after some teams complained about an imbalanced number of divisional games against rivals.
Currently, each team plays either three or four games against divisional opponents, for a total of 26 games; they play three games against nondivisional teams within their own conference, for a total of 24 games; and they play two games, home and away, against opponents from the other conference for a total of 32 games.
Again going to an 84-game schedule which the NHL had from 1992-94, which the NHLPA agreed to because of two neutral site games, would have to again be agreed to by the NHLPA.
An 82-game season is long enough as it is for some of these players. Not to mention the start of training camp for some of these players is way too long. If the NHL were to add games, they would cut down on preseason games.
As the ESPN report states, the idea was discussed at the NHL GM’s meetings that Sportico reported on. These sources talk about Edmonton-Calgary, but that happened organically. I bet you networks like ESPN, TNT, Sportsnet, and TVA Sports are not going to want to see Arizona and Dallas six to eight times a year.
Let’s be real, Canadian rivalries are a little different than American rivalries. All of them were born in the playoffs or teams entering locations that already had NHL teams. Just see the NJ/NY/PA area with the Devils, Rangers, Flyers, and Islanders.
Executives can’t point to Edmonton and Calgary. The Battle of Alberta or the Forever Rivals in Toronto and Montreal are on a different level. Even the Original Six rivalries are on a different level.
Chris Johnston of TSN also reports that he is told it’s “not accurate” that NHL teams could meet as many as eight times next season. There’s certainly a desire among some clubs to face rivals more often, but there’s only so much than can be done if teams are going to play in all 32 buildings each season.
There is still so much to be worked on in the schedule. But what makes the most sense is a team should play inside their division four teams, which gives you 32 games. The other division in the same conference twice which gives you 16 games. Then play opponents of the other conference twice for a total of 32 games. This leaves two games left over which can rotate against a rival team for a total of 82 games.
This is something to keep an eye on. The league has yet to comment on either report. However, the NHLPA as previously mentioned will have to approve any schedule changes.