The NHL released its TV schedule for 2012-13 yesterday, almost as if they wanted the season to begin on time.
As expected, the Los Angeles Kings saw a boost in coverage. They will appear 17 games next season on NBC, NBCN, and the NHL Network, up from 13 games last season and 11 games in 2010-11. Their first game will feature the banner raising in their home opener against the Rangers -- that is, if this year goes according to plan.
The modest increase in coverage may not seem like much, but bear in mind that the Kings have not been a big ratings draw nationwide. There's a simple reason the Boston Bruins get a whopping 31 games on national TV -- they do.
NBC is probably hoping the greater exposure they got in the Final will pay off. Los Angeles is the second largest media market in the U.S., and during the playoff run, the Kings pulled in higher local ratings than ever before. If that trend continues, it could mean more sponsorships and ad revenue for the league. However, to capitalize on that momentum, there actually needs to be a season.
Just like it would have been nice to build off the New York Rangers' win in 1994, right?
Your move, Bettman. Your move.
Kings vs. Blues: The next big rivalry in the West?
The schedule-makers think that the rivalry to watch will be with St. Louis. The Kings/Blues games are highlighted in the national coverage -- 3 out of 4 will air.
Kings fans may care more about beating their Cali rivals into the ground right now (and that is always sweet), but the Blues should be a powerhouse rival in the West for a long time. Consider:
- Both the Kings and the Blues are strong opponents, not just flashes in the pan -- two of the top puck possession teams in the league
- Both are favored to win their divisions
- Both teams have 'just arrived', with young core players coming into their own
- Star matchups: Doughty vs. Pietrangelo, Kopitar vs. Backes, Quick vs. Halak
Great rivalries don't develop without some epic postseason battles, of course, and these teams have some foundation for that -- their hard-hitting series boiled over several times, and St. Louis should be out for redemption.
Re-live the action!
Ken Hitchcock said the key to the series was intensity -- the Kings brought it, and the Blues weren't ready for it. It was part of the playoff learning experience. You can be sure he will hound them next season to be equal to the challenge.
What do you think? Could the Blues become our big bad rivals? Which are the teams right now you most love to hate?
I dunno about you, but I still loathe any team with Mike Smith.