Sometime soon the NHL will finally realize the toll Gary Bettman has taken on the NHL, and will then need to appoint a new leader. This blog entry is my way of throwing my hat into the ring. Below is strictly a prototype I have created, and is based on my own opinion. If you dislike the Ideas I suggest, please suggest alternatives to what you do not like.
First and Foremost, Ditching the Eastern and Western conference style would help promote the game to a wider fan base. Call the conferences Whales, and Campbell or whatever you want to name them, and set them up a little more like baseball and football. I propose trading the pacific and Atlantic divisions, as well as moving Nashville to the southeast,Washington to the Northeast, and Toronto back to the central. The Conferences and Division would look like this:
Central Atlantic Northwest
Chicago New Jersey Colorado
Detroit Pittsburgh Calgary
Toronto NY Rangers Minnesota
Columbus NY Islander Vancouver
St. Louis Philadelphia Edmonton
Pacific Northeast Southeast
San Jose Washington Nashville
LA Buffalo Atlanta
Anaheim Boston Florida
Dallas Ottawa Tampa Bay
Phoenix Montreal Carolina
Trading the 2 divisions would level the travel burden on both conferences, while still maintaining most natural rivalries. The schedule would be broken down more similar to baseball. Series of two or three games (6 total) at a time with inter- divisional opponents a few different times a year would make for more interesting hockey with teams becoming more acquainted with one another over a span of two or three games. 2 sets of home and home against conferences teams not in your division, a rotating schedule playing 4 games against one division from the opposing conference , while playing the other teams in the opposite division once.
Playoffs would stay the same.
Other rule changes I would make are mostly to the way the standings are determined. I would remove the OTL point, and the shoot out all together. Games going to overtime would start in a 4 vs. 4 OT, then a 3 vs. 3 OT. Games ending in a tie would remain a tie. Hockey is a team sport and should be decided that way.
I would also remove the Trapezoid, and make checking goalies not in the crease perfectly legal. Eliminating the trapezoid brings goalie puck handling back into the game, and allowing the checking of the goalie polices the over zealous goalie from playing the puck too much.
These changes would create a more fan friendly NHL, and create more interest in regular season games. Couple these changes with a better TV contract and perhaps folks would start to pay attention to hockey again. I am open to more ideas and suggestions, so please comment away!