Sunday, 24 July 2011

The NHL. My Way

Starting next season, there will be some moves around the NHL coming from the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg and the return of the Jets. Several other teams could possibly be moved as well, most likely Phoenix, Columbus and the Islanders, meaning there could be some massive changes coming. The most common theory is there will only be two divisions in each conference. Adam Proteau of The Hockey News even proposed the idea of getting rid of divisions all together.

The NHL is sure going to look different a year from now. Here is how the NHL should look like and operate in my opinion. First I'll start with the divisions.

Wayne Gretzky Conference
Marcel Dionne Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San, Jose, Vancouver
Gordie Howe Division: Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Saskatoon, Winnipeg
Bobby Orr Confernce
Mario Lemieux Division: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
Maurice Richard Division: Boston, Buffalo, Columbus, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto

Obviously I've narrowed it down to two division per conference and renamed them after some of the all-time greats. Obviously I've relocated a few more teams, moving the Florida Panthers (we really don't need two teams in Florida) and the Phoenix Coyotes (really seems like only a matter of time, doesn't it) and moved them to Quebec and Saskatoon, bringing the total number of teams in Canada up to nine. It would be great to see the Montreal/Quebec rivalry again and Western Canada deserves another team. I was trying to figure out where to put the third relocated team and decided on Saskatoon to avoid an issue we could see next season and that is Winnipeg being the only Canadian team in their division. Saskatchewan is home to a number of junior teams and fans there deserve a shot with a professional team.

I have kept Detroit, a popular choice to move over to the Eastern/Orr Conference, where they are. Breaking up the Red Wings/Blackhawks rivalry, not to mention leaving Chicago as the only Original Six team in the conference, just couldn't happen, so I left Detroit alone and moved Columbus over to the weaker conference where they may actually have a chance to make the playoffs (but still probably not). The Mario Lemieux Division is comprised of the Atlantic Division and the three remaining teams from the Southeast Division while the Northeast Division  is also in tact in addition to Columbus and Quebec. This alignment should keep all the major rivalries together.

The schedule would be trimmed slightly to 80 games to cut down on a few three games in four nights situations for each team. Every team would be guaranteed to visit each building once with a home and home against the opposite conference and the remaining 50 games would be against their own conference. Each fan base deserves to see Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and every other star in the league. I would also get rid of the loser point and just go by wins and losses. Points would still be kept for historical comparisons, but when the only options are two points or none, you don't need to bother with points for current standings.

I have some ideas for the next CBA too. First, there will be a maximum contract length of 10 years. Something needs to be done or these long contracts are going to get out of hand pretty soon. Also, any contract with a cap hit greater than $4 million cannot be buried in the minors. This may cause teams to think twice before handing out $7 million a year to a number one center who scores 15 goals on a good year or a defenseman who can't play defense. Owners and GMs need to be protected from themselves and this would cause them to think twice about ridiculous contracts. I would also take away the cap floor. While the NHL wants teams to be on an even playing field, handing out over-priced contracts just to make the floor, much like Florida has been doing this summer, is pointless and redundant.

I would really like to fix the uniforms. Here are some things I would take away: apron striping (vertical stripes don't work on a hockey jersey and they clash with the 'C' and 'A'), curved/unfinished stripes on socks (these just look bad, nicknames used as the logo (what's next? PENS? FLYBOYS? CANES? DOGS? Stop it now!), small numbers above the logo (though something like Dallas' is OK) and, of course, the home team would go back to wearing white.

Lastly, here are some final random rule changes.

  • Visors are mandatory.
  • The Norris Trophy will be for best all-around defenseman and a new trophy (the Rod Langway Trophy) will be made for best defensive defenseman. 
  • Fights as a direct result of a clean hit will result in a power play.
  • All hits to the head are banned, accidental or not.
  • Hybrid icing introduced. The whistle will be blown when the puck crosses the goal line unless the offending team is closer when they reach the faceoff circle. 
  • Elbow pads must have a soft outer shell. 
  • Referees will go back to having their names on their uniform instead of a number. 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Another Failure, Another Blow-Up In Philly

Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is going to have to learn some patience. If every plan of his doesn't work out in the first few tries, Philly fans are going to see an entirely different team hit the ice every three or four years.The first time, it was completely warranted. He took over a last-place team in early 2006-07 that was horribly mismanaged after the lockout and went to the conference final in 2008 and the Stanley Cup final in 2010. But they collapsed after a strong start and were swept from the playoffs for the first time since the 1997 Stanley Cup final. Changes were expected, but a complete overhaul was completely unexpected.

Eight players from their final game against Boston are gone now. Regardless of how you feel about the players traded, it is alarming complete rebuilds are becoming the norm for the Flyers' GM. Like I said the first one was completely necessary as the Flyers were too slow to compete in the new NHL. So out went Peter Forsberg, Kyle Calder, Randy Robitaille, Alexei Zhitnik, Peter Nedved and Freddy Meyer during the season and Joni Pitkanen, Geoff Sanderson, Todd Fedoruk, Mike York and Rob Esche in the off season.

They were replaced by Danny Briere, Scott Hartnel after winning the Presidents' Trophy, Kimmo Timonen, Brayden Coburn, Joffrey Lupul, Scottie Upshall, Jason Smith, and Martin Biron. Holmgren did such a good job turning this team into a contender and Ken Campbell praised his work in the May 16 issue of The Hockey News. Campbell said of Holmgren:
When you look at the Flyers as presently constituted, you can trace them directly back to the moves Holmgren made at the moment in time when things looked most bleak....But it was amid that scorched earth that Holmgren did his finest work.
He made some tweaks, sure. They were an offense-heavy team, so they were able to trade youngsters R. J.Umberger and Joffrey Lupul and added Chris Pronger. That addition alone nearly led to a championship, but the Flyers were still a few part away. They seemingly fixed that by acquiring Ilya Bryzgalov and a trade was certainly needed to clear cap space, but a total overhaul did not appear on the horizon. First was Carter, who I thought should be traded. I was about to write an article for The Hockey Writers about why he should be traded when he was. Then, following Carter was Richards, Kris Versteeg, Ville Leino, Darroll Powe, Dan Carcillo, Sean O'Donnell and Brian Boucher in favor of Jaromir Jagr, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Max Talbot and Andreas Lilja.

Campbell praised Holmgren for his ability to turn around a franchise so quickly when it takes some teams years. But is he going to be making a habit of it? It's really disappointing when a good team fails to reach the ultimate goal, but you need to give them some time to play together and work towards that goal. Being a consistent contender is pretty much the best you can hope for in this league and if you can break through and win the Stanley Cup, all the better.

Look at San Jose. They failed to get past the second round of the playoffs the first four years after the lockout, even falling in the first round to Anaheim in 2009 after winning the Presidents' Trophy. But instead of blowing the team up and starting over as many pundits said they should, they stuck with their course and have been to the conference final in each of the past two years.That consistency is largely to due with the fact they have been kept together. The Flyers are going to have trouble developing good team chemistry if they keep changing their key players every few years.