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.