The National Hockey League released its 2010-2011 regular season schedule earlier today. It is tough not to be excited, because hockey is that much closer to starting again. There is also the outdoor games (as flawed as they are), hockey days in Canada and America, and the rematch for the Hawks against Philly in January. But looking over Chicago's schedule showed one glaring weakness- where are the Original Six games, especially at home?
As a member of the Original Six, Chicago should be facing the other five teams every season, period. It is a travesty to the game that Montreal, New York, Boston, Detroit, Toronto, and Chicago cannot engage in relishing their elite membership in hockey with at least one clash during the regular season.
Each original gets to play some, but not all of the founding clubs. Boston does not get to play Chicago or Detroit. Chicago plays no one besides New York and division opponent Detroit. The Rangers, Leafs, Canadiens, Bruins, and Wings get to play everyone, but not necessarily at home, where fans would go to see these match-ups. At least give them all a home and away series to play fair.
As home to the Stanley Cup champions, it would be a service to the club to play against the aforementioned clubs, and there is one way that this scenario could be all but guaranteed: realignment.
Say what? Yeah, realignment.
What if, instead of Eastern and Western conferences, there were northern and southern conferences. Sounds tricky, because it is. If something like this were to happen, there would not be a straight line drawn down the middle of the country, because there is clearly not enough teams in warmer climates to pull it off.
After looking at how this could work, this is the scenario that would make sense in getting Original Six match-ups to be more frequent, as well as make every team travel around the same amount, to rid the advantage the east coast teams have of playing so much in their cluster.
Northern Conference Southern Conference
Boston Bruins Chicago Blackhawks
Toronto Maple Leafs Detroit Red Wings
New York Rangers Montreal Canadiens
Yes, this is not ideal to some, but there are pros and cons.
A positive is that Original Six teams are now split in half, making the schedule easier to configure a home/home series. It also makes every team travel to all four time zones in the United States. This gives fans a much better chance to see teams that they rarely get to see. Ovechkin can go to California, Crosby to Dallas, and more original eastern teams can have their chance at topping the reigning cup champs.
The biggest positive is that you do not lose a lot of the east coast rivalries you see today (NYR-NYI, BOS-PHI, NYR-BOS, and so on). Most of the Eastern Conference teams that would be relocated to the south are actually from that region.
The negatives are obvious based on the above list. A lot of east coast teams will have to up the budget for travel. At least the travel is fair, because teams like San Jose and Anaheim are on the road for long periods of time since they are not very close to the majority of the league's teams.
There is also the issue of teams being in the "south" when they are from the northern part of America or in Canada. Detroit is in the west and they have an eastern time zone. This proposal just adds to that list.
This is not meant to be a be-all-end-all set up to be instilled tomorrow, but shifting some teams could do the league a favor in trying to amp up some teams that do not get a lot of coverage across the NHL spectrum.
In all, four teams get shifted to another conference that they were not originally in, so this is not a drastic change. The main purpose is to show a new alignment that could get teams noticed throughout the two countries.
The NHL needs to get the scheduling process fixed. This shift could be the difference. Let the debate begin.