Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 02, 2021

A search through this blog will give you a hint of the extreme distaste I’ve had over the National Hockey League’s cockamamie unbalanced season schedule. To me, it sacrifices even an attempt at completeness — i.e., every club playing every other club every year at least once — in favor of a hyperdivisional setup that sought to instill rivalry by rote in five-team clusters.

After enough discontent from key franchises, the setup has been, thankfully, abandoned. Starting with the 2008-09 season, the league is reverting back to the pre-lockout scheduling formula:

The NHL has approved a scheduling format that will have each team play 24 divisional games, 40 in-conference matchups, 15 games against non-conference teams and three wild card games against out of conference teams.

Am I satisfied? Not completely. I’d still like to see a fully-balanced schedule, certainly weighted toward divisional and intra-conference play but also incorporating complete home-and-home inter-conference play. Pretty much what the players wanted:

New NHL Players’ Association executive director Paul Kelly met with the league’s owners on Thursday, and added that the players preferred going to an 84-game schedule with 24 divisional games, 30 against the rest of the conference and 30 against the other conference.

“The reason the players feel this is one, they’re tired of seeing the same guys week after week,” Kelly explained to reporters on Thursday. “(And) two, they believe the fans in their buildings want to see the star players in other teams and they themselves would like to like to see other cities.”

I’d have gone for that. Two extra games on the season would be just great for me — I’m not one of these kooks who want to see a schedule reduction to 70-odd games.

Barring that, copying the NBA’s scheduling format would have been the next-best thing:

- Each team plays two games against every team from the opposite conference, one in each team’s building, for a total of 30 games.

- Each team plays their four division rivals four times each (twice at home and twice on the road) for 16 games.

- That leaves 10 other in-conference opponents to be played 36 times. A team plays six of those teams four times each and the other four teams three times apiece (18 at home, 18 on the road).

Yes, it’s unbalanced, but at least the NBA avoids these one-off matchups. It’s killed me that, during this post-lockout era in hockey, the argument was that the NHL was too geographically spread-out for all the teams to meet — when the NBA, with comparable dots on the map, could pull it off.

Anyway, this reversion may not be perfect, but it’s an improvement. In the middle-term, with expansion likely coming, we may eventually see something closer to balance.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/02/2021 07:11:15 PM
Category: Hockey, Basketball
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3 Feedbacks »
  1. More games no one cares about! Improvement indeed.

    Comment by David — 12/03/2021 @ 11:06:00 AM

  2. Ah David, we’ve parried over this enough times before, so it’s safe to say neither of us are going to convince the other.

    All I’ll say is that some of us do care about annual Rangers vs. Blackhawks, Lightning vs. Canucks, etc. matchups. And to make up for your apathy, I’m gonna care twice as much for each inter-conference game next year! ;)

    Comment by CT — 12/03/2021 @ 11:01:13 PM

  3. Canucks at Bolts will save the league. Attendance will boom. I am convinced.


    Comment by David — 12/04/2021 @ 12:53:05 PM

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