For our final sponsored post about enhancing the NHL experience, I'm envisioning a scenario where I replace Gary Bettman with someone infinitely more qualified: me. As your new NHL commissioner / benevolent overlord, I'm ready to make some changes to improve the game. Here are the 9 things I'd do to "fix" hockey.
1. No more loser point. I don't love the shootout, but even I have to admit that it's exciting to watch. But you know what? The NBA slam dunk contest is kind of exciting too (or, it was the last time I watched it, probably sometime in the ‘90s). Just because it's exciting doesn't mean you want a game decided by one. It's gone. From now on, 4-on-4 sudden-death overtime is extended from 5 minutes to 20. That's right, I said 20. If you win, 2 points. Lose? Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Not even a home version of the game. If the game is still tied after 4 periods of hockey, it's a tie. End of story.
2. Vary rink sizes. Wouldn't it be awesome to give some baseball-like character to each of the rinks? Different sized rinks would open up all sorts of different playing strategies. Smaller rinks would emphasize hitting, larger rinks would reward skill. Do you build your roster around your rink...or one that's balanced enough to play well anywhere?
3. Divisional Playoffs. There is nothing duller than the "balanced" 1-8 playoff seeding used by the NHL today. Yawn. We're bringing back divisional playoff play. 4 divisions, 4 teams from each division make the playoffs, and the first two rounds feature all-divisional play (1vs4, 2vs3 in round 1, with the winners playing each other in round 2). Why? Because the only thing more exciting than playoff hockey is playoff hockey between two rival teams. The league got rid of divisional play because sometime the 5th best team in one division was better than the 4th best team in another division. To this I say: boo hoo. If you can't finish in the top 4 in your division, you can skip the postseason.
4. Realignment. Of course, #3 won't work with 6 divisions, so we're going to have to move some teams around. This could be an opportunity to bring in the "classic" division names here (Smyth, Patrick, Wales, Norris), but I don't feel a need to bring those back. Geographical names work just fine, thanks. We'll keep the East and West Conference. In the East, will have a Northeast Division (Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Detroit, Columbus) and an Atlantic Division (Carolina, Washington, NYI, NYR, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia). Out West we'll have a Pacific (Vancouver, LA, SJ, Anaheim, Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado and Edmonton) and a Central Division (Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville, St Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Tampa and Florida). For the most part, existing rivalries remain intact. A few are restored (Toronto and Detroit) and there's potential for some new ones to form (Minnesota and Chicago). Oh, and yes, there are 14 teams in the East and 16 in the West. It's okay - life will go on.
5. No Uniprons. Simple enough, yes?
6. Organizational Salary Cap. I don't love the cap, but it seems like there's a couple of things that can be done to salvage it into what it was meant to do: level the playing field. One would be to extend the cap to all of an organization's players under contract. It would be a higher cap, of course, but your players in the minors count (and you'll need to have a minimum number under contract). No more stashing a veteran in the minors just for cap relief.
7. 5 Year Maximum Contract. The mega-long contracts we're seeing in the league are not just salary cap exploits. They also limit player movement. That won't work in my NHL. No contract over five years; we want to make sure these guys get onto the open market a couple of times to jazz up free agency a bit.
8. No Gary Glitter. Don't like the song, don't like seeing mountains of music royalties going to a slug of a human being. So, his music is out. I don't care if they replace it with the Macarena or the Hokey Pokey. Glitter is a goner.
9. Shorter Season. 82 games is too much. Let's shave it down to 70 and cut 6 weeks off the marathon season to boot.
That's it. 9 "simple" things that I'd do if I was in charge. There's little chance of that happening, of course. But you never know...