As it is now, we see Eastern conference teams in L. A. only once every two years. It was a great thrill to see the Kings come from behind against the Penguins and beat them at home, but with the current sked, that can't happen again until 2011-2012. Same with seeing Ovechkin, or Brodeur, etc. It ain't right and it ain't necessary.
The current way:
We play 6 division games (3 home, 3 away) against 4 opponents, 24 games. We play other Western Conference teams 4 games (2 home, 2 away) against 10 opponents, 40 games. We then play the Eastern Conference opponents once each, 15 games, with home and away alternating annually. That leaves 3 games for the NHL to scatter about, like, say, on Sunday maybe, where they have Chicago or Detroit play against Pitsburgh or Washington. You know, the ratings scam where it turns into a 4-team league and the rest of the universe wishes they could be like those teams when
the league grows they grow up.
We play each divisional rival 5 times, total 20 games. The home and away balances bi-annually. We play the rest of our conference 3 times, again with who gets the odd home game alternating annually, total 30 games. We now have 32 games remaining, letting us have two games against each of the 15 Eastern Conference teams, one home and one away, every year. The extra games are only two, distribution of which I think should be determined by a seeding system that puts the nearest two records against each other, so instead of the playoff style 1 versus 8, you would have 1 versus 2, and 7 versus 8, etc. Put those two extra games in-conference, with each team playing the team closest above them and closest below them in point total from the previous season. Conference Champ gets to play the team that was second, and since nobody was better than them, they get to play the team that was last. Sucks to be last, and you get props for being first. Or, Gary "Bettsy" Bettman could have that missing game be between the two Conference Champs, on, say, a Sunday on NBC... Or that could even be how it is determined who gets to play in the Winter Classic, instead of whatever bullshit system the League now uses. Make who plays in the Classic less subjective, and make it something earned.
We play all teams at home at least once. Crosby has to come here and whine every year, we get to see Simmonds pay back Malkin with an elbow to the head with 7 seconds to go in the game and Ovechkin has to get stopped by Doughty one-on-one when he tries his crossover move from the Right side, and Doughty simply matches the cross-over while simultaneously closing his skates to block the puck with his blades. Piece of cake.
We force the Eastern Conference to taste the "travel soup" we are forced to swallow. Even tho this would add slightly to our own burden as well, it is my opinion that it is better to go from us traveling a lot and them hardly at all, to us still travleing a lot and them traveling almost a lot. In other words, we already travel, and to make each Eastern Conference teams have to endure a couple of West Coast swings every year would establish nearer parity in that regard.
We change the Divisional season series format to a best of 5 games, and the Conference season series to a best of 3. A clear winner is established, good for marketing, better for fan smacktalk.
Teams still have 82 home games every two years. If they do it properly, teams would get 41 home games every year, too, but this is the NHL we are talking about. So, for example, they would have to balance the four Divisional 5-game-series where we get two home games in two of the series, and three home games in the other two series. The following year, we would switch which teams we get the 3 and 2 homers with.
Stats become more representative of actual League-wide proficiency and standing; individual stats as well as, and more importantly, the team point totals. Washington, by many accounts, had an inflated point total by playing in a weak division. This would be lessened significantly with my schedule. Crosby and Ovechkin would have to score more of their goals against Western Conference teams with better records.
Rather than diminishing rivalries, it is my belief that this will maintain existing rivalries and even make them more pronounced by having the Inter-Divisional best-of-5 format and the Inter-Conference best-of-3 format, while at the same time my format could also better establish new rivalries Intra-Conference. Who cares about New York's Islanders with the way it is? But if they came here every year, we might begin to care enough to keep a Moulson face-hair time-lapse photo array. Or from Tampa, we would get to see Stamkos fill out and mature, or see and boo Cammalleri, etc., etc.
Of course it will increase travel and therefore fatigue somewhat, and may enhance injury potential, but only slightly. And, if the current season schedule can be made to include a 2 week break for the Olympics with many of the best players participating in those extra games, from that perspective it seems much less problematic to add a few travel days. And, those days that are added to travel all the way East are balanced by the travel days subtracted by not going to Calgary, or Detroit, or any of the other same-conference teams we would be playing only 3 times instead of 4.
It could happen, it is irrefutably a more balanced schedule, and the fan reaction would generate dollars. I wish the League would look at it.