What the NHL Would Look Like After Contraction

You can read this piece as well as fictional accounts of Kaner's love life at my blog, HERE.

I was having a hell of a time trying to come up with a way to write this post and then I got scooped and that made it considerably easier.

So let me send a big thank you to Helene Elliott of the LA Times for writing a piece on why the NHL should consider contraction. She makes the financial argument which I suppose is the only one that really matters in the end.

I was going for the more metaphysical angle about how hockey is a cultural thing and doesn't fit into warm weather cities (or Columbus). And then I was going to make the argument about how the NHL should embrace the fact that it is a niche sport and concentrate on promoting and pushing the game where, you know, it's popular, and um, cold.

But now I don't have to waste my time or yours by being the grumpy-old-man-hockey-purist and we can skip straight ahead to the fun part where we get to axe teams and play the re-alignment game!

Before I start chopping teams and breaking hearts let me just say that one of the best things that would come out of contraction would be the increase in the quality of play and rosters. I am giddy at the thought of it. I propose the NHL should contract six teams. If we redistributed the top two forward lines and the top two defensive pairs (36 forwards, 24 defensemen) each of the remaining 24 teams would receive, at the minimum, a new and improved forward line.

With the first pick in the 2012 NHL Contraction Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks select Rick Nash.

Let's do this thing.

In fashion hockey one day you're in, the next day you're out. So it is with a heavy heart that we must say auf wiedersehen to the following franchises:

  • Columbus
  • Carolina
  • Phoenix
  • Nashville
  • Atlanta
  • Florida

My plan also calls for relocating Tampa Bay to Hamilton, Ontario and while we're at it, we'll be eliminating the shootout in lieu of a ten minute four-on-four overtime. Games ending in a tie after the overtime, end in a tie. Three points for a win, one point for a tie.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a newly re-aligned NHL (with cool new division names).

Eastern Conference

Orr Division
-NY Rangers
-NY Islanders

Lemieux Division
-New Jersey

Beliveau Division

Western Conference

Howe Division
-St. Louis

Gretzky Disvion
-San Jose

???? Division
-Los Angeles

It's all so neat and tidy, is it not?

It's the same divisional set-up that MLB uses. In this universe, each division winner would make the playoffs plus one wild card team in each conference. That would be a total of eight playoff teams, or 33% of the league. That is a drastic departure from the current 53% of teams that qualify for the playoffs. Also in this scenario we would lose a round of playoffs, which I think is a great thing because it would shorten the season.

As far as the schedule goes, I would propose the following:

  • Six games against each division opponent (same as now) for a total of 18 games.
  • Four games against each of the eight remaining teams in the conference (same as now) for a total of 32 games.
  • Two games against each of the opposing conference teams for a total of 24 games.

That gives us a grand total of 74 games in the regular season which shaves two weeks off the regular season, plus we would lose a round of playoff games which would save another two weeks. Who would like to wrap up the Cup Finals in early May? Here's two thumbs pointing at this guy.

A shorter regular season and post season would keep the players healthier, giving them a longer off-season to recover and rejuvenate. Ending the post season in early May would mean that the NHL and NBA playoffs would no longer go head to head on television which should equal higher ratings.

Another benefit of this system would be the increased importance of division games and regular season games in general. With only four playoff berths available in each conference, that places a premium on winning divisional games. Every Blackhawks-Red Wings game and Rangers-Islanders game would be that much more intense. This would be great for the NHL in promoting its' old-school inter-division rivalries.

My ???? Division worries me. First of all, it needs a name (Marcel Dionne Division?) so if you have a suggestion, put it in the comments and secondly, those are four mediocre to bad teams. It's like the NL West over there. I guess the Giants are going to the World Series this year so maybe it's a bad comparison.

But whatever, I think overall it would be awesome and if I think it's awesome that means that Bettman thinks it's a pile of shit. And if Bettman thinks it's a pile of shit then we should institute my plan immediately.

PS: If you aren't already doing so, please follow me on Twitter @nCornick . Give me a couple weeks and if you think the stupid shit I tweet about is, well, shitty, please feel free to unfollow. I am trying to break through the triple digit barrier! Make it so, readers!

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