Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Feeling Minnesota...yet again.

Tonight the Red Wings face Minnesota for the 3rd time in a row. Why?

Not that anyone out side of Canada cares, but the next thing the NHL should do is re-align the league. The schedule right now is a joke. In addition to the frequent west coast trips, there are random stretches like the one the Wings are in now (6 games in a row against Minnesota and Columbus). As is stands right now teams is each division play each other 8 times that's 32 games, or 40% of the total games played in a year. Not only does this benefit average teams in weak divisions (like the Red Wings who have 2 of the bottom 5 in the league in their division) but takes away established rivalries (the Wings have only played the Leafs once in three years) and tries to force new ones by beating the same teams over and over again. Just because Columbus and Michigan hate each other in college football, doesn't make it a rivalry in another sport. Plus you only play teams from the other conference 10 games a year. It could be years before Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin play Detroit again. Add to that Detroit and Columbus routinely have to play the aforementioned west coast trips, while some teams in the East will not have to leave the Eastern Time Zone again this season.

If Pittsburgh ends up moving, the rumored places include western locales such as Winnipeg, Las Vegas and Houston. If that happens the easy move is the Wings into the east, and well screw Columbus they've only been around 6 years. But I don't want to wish that on the people of Pittsburgh, so I suggest switching it from East/West to North/South. Not every team exactly fits geographically, so let's bring back the naming of divisions and conferences after Hall of Famers. Here's how I'd realign it:

Howe (or Northern) Conference

Richard (East) Division: NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Boston, Montreal, Buffalo

Hull (Central): Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, Ottawa

Orr (West): Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado, Minnesota, Edmonton

Gretzky (Southern) Conference:

Lemieux (East): Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Florida, Washington

Bourque (Central): Nashville, St. Louis, Carolina, Atlanta, Columbus

Dionne (West): Dallas, Anaheim, LA, San Jose, Phoenix

With this alignment it preserves most of the rivalries currently in place, reunites a few old ones (The Hull…the new Norris), and gives a chance for new ones to develop. Also the breakdown of good vs. bad teams looks pretty even (at least this year)Plus Ovechkin vs. Crosby in the same division could be the NHL's version of Yankees vs. Red Sox. Now if they could just get someone with a clue to run the NHL so something like this could be implemented.

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