From Boston Sports Guy’s post about the NBA’s All-Star Break:
Looking at the big picture, the league won’t struggle even 1/10th as much as the NHL in years to come — of all the wildest predictions I heard in Phoenix, the craziest came from a connected executive who predicted that fifteen NHL teams would go under within the next two years (and was dead serious) — and Major League Baseball is about to get creamed beyond belief.
It made me look at the NHL’s attendance year-to-date and wonder:
Why are the Islanders still in business? 13,550/game, and that includes all the comped seats and unoccupied boxes?
The NHL has not been able to get out of its own way since the 1994 lockout – the 2004 cancellation was just a consequence of the rush to get back on the ice a decade earlier – but you might hope that high definition television would be the saving grace; while all sports look better in HD, hockey is absolutely transformed.
Unfortunately, the league made the short-sighted decision to expand dramatically in the good years. Rather than lose teams to the vagaries of bankruptcy, why not retrench to the following:
The Islanders, Thrashers, Predators, Coyotes, Panthers and Blue Jackets go away. This leaves four six-team divisions: Northeast (Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Rangers, Toronto), Atlantic (Capitals, Carolina, Devils, Flyers, Penguins, Tampa), Southwest (Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, LA, San Jose, Vancouver), Northwest (Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, Minnesota, St. Louis).
Each team plays each other team home and away (46 games), each other team in its division home and away twice more (20 games), and one more game against each non-division opponent with the venue to alternate in successive years (18 games). Cut the Stanley Cup down to 12 teams, with the top four getting byes for the first series. In the first series, instead of four home games for the higher seed and three for the lower seed, play the first game on neutral ice, then four home for the higher seed and two for the lower (N-H-H-A-H-A-H). For the four neutral venues, pick Halifax, Quebec, Winnipeg, and the home ice of whoever wins the NCAA Frozen Four.
And for God’s sake, end the fighting. It’s dumb. Sure, there are folks who go to the games for the fights, just as there are folks who go to auto races for the crashes. Those aren’t serious fans. But they are a good excuse to show this oldie: