The Plan to Expand

I’m not one to advocate NHL expansion, but I believe it is going to happen and that it will happen in the next few years. The allure of millions and millions of dollars in expansion fees that go directly into NHL owners’ pockets (bypassing the players) will ultimately prove to be too much to resist. There are those who would argue that contraction makes more sense than expansion, but it won’t happen.

Of all the pros and cons that come with the addition of a couple of teams to the Original 30, the biggest positive is that it provides the league a golden opportunity to fix the schedule. My best guess is that we’d see teams added in Las Vegas and Kansas City, though certainly cases could (and should) be made for Hamilton and/or Winnipeg as well.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s going to be KC and Vegas. Here’s how I’d realign the divisions (East and North would be in one conference; Central and West in the other):

EAST: Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus
NORTH: Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, New Jersey
CENTRAL: Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville, Kansas City, Colorado
WEST: San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary

You could make the necessary tweaks to accomodate Hamilton and/or Winnipeg if the expansion dice came up in favor of one or both. You could also go back to using the old Norris, Smythe, Patrick and Adams Division tags, and Wales and Campbell Conferences, if you wanted to.

Here’s how the schedule would work. Each team would play the seven other teams within its division six times for a total of 42 division games. That’s slightly more than half the schedule, so those games and those rivalries would certainly have meaning.

Each team would face the other eight teams in its conference three times, for a total of 24 games. It would play four of those teams twice at home and once on the road, and the other four teams once at home and twice on the road. The schedule against conference opponents would flip-flop each season, so that each club would visit each team in its conference (but not in its division) three times over each two-season span.

Finally, each team would face each of the 16 teams in the opposite conference once, playing eight at home and eight on the road. The following season, the schedule would flip-flop. So for example, every team in the “other” conference would visit Verizon Center every other season.

That’s 42 games within the division, another 24 within the conference and 16 outside the conference. Eighty-two games, with 41 at home and 41 on the road. I’d also have the top eight teams in each conference in the playoffs, regardless of which division they represent.

With that out of the way, I’m off to see what I can do about arranging for peace on Earth.

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12 Comments on “The Plan to Expand”

  1. Kerplunk Says:

    Mike, why isn’t Seattle in the picture? Other than a vacant arena, how do KC and Seattle compare as hockey markets?

  2. dumpnchase Says:

    Dunno much about Seattle as an expansion destnation. In all the expansions since 1967, I don’t recall them ever being mentioned as more than a casual possibility, and don’t remember them ever narrowly missing out as some cities did before later being awarded a team. However, Seattle was the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, so it does have that going for it. Ninety years ago, the Seattle Metropolitans (of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association) beat the Montreal Canadiens to win the Cup.

  3. Rice & Gravy Says:

    Attendance at an all time low, I know, let’s add more teams! BRILLIANT!!!

  4. Although I know it will never happen, I wish the NHL would move Detroit and Toronto into the same division. Growing up the Wings-Leafs matchups were always some of the best. Now they’re almost inconsequential.

  5. When I was in Seattle last year, i saw WHL games in Seattle (downtown) and in Everett. I was told that the area isn’t really hockey crazy.

    And, with all the rumors about the Sonics moving, you wonder about the viability of a hockey team there.

    I always hear Portland (backed by Paul Allen) as a more realistic option for the PNW.

  6. dumpnchase Says:

    Rice & Gravy,
    Attendance is not at an all-time low. It’s actually been decent in most markets since the lockout ended. Ten of the 30 teams played to 100% or more of their capacity last season. Ten more played to more than 90% of their capacity. Even the Caps, who were 27th in the league in home attendance (74.6% of capacity), stirred up interest elsewhere. Washington was fifth in the league in road attendance, which should tell you something about how exciting this team is to watch. (The Capitals were 26th in the league in road attandance in 2005-06.)

    To me, expansion is more about the dilution of the talent. You’re talking about 46 more jobs, and those players would come from Europe and the AHL. I think the league is already stretching the limits of the worldwide hockey talent base without adding another 46 jobs. Just my opinion.

  7. Mike–

    As usual, you make too much sense, in both the post and the comments. The only point of disagreement–top 8 in the playoffs, regardless of division. If you go that route, why have divisions (and an unbalanced schedule) in the first place?

    Also, while we’re talking expansion, any thoughts/rumors on putting an NHL team in Boston?…

  8. Steve Says:

    I agree with Sean. If you are going to have 8 teams in the playoffs per conference, it should be 4 from each division and the first two rounds should be to determine the division winner. You really want rivalries, that is the way to do it.

  9. dumpnchase Says:

    I could go either way on the playoffs. Sure, it’s nice to cement those division rivalires with division playoff series. So I would be okay with that. But I’d also hate to see a really good fifth place team left out of the playoffs by a dismal fourth place team in the other division in that conference. And, I think there is something to be said for “new” playoff matchups. Think the Caps got sick of seeing the Isles every April in the 80s or the Pens every April in the 90s?

  10. Mike Says:

    I agree that expansion will probably happen, and before the CBA is up. I also agree that it is probably a bad thing from the talent pool standpoint. Although, I have a couple of off-subject questions:

    1) I’m worried that Chris Bourque may be an odd man out and be dealt to a different team. I think this would be a bad decision mainly from a pedigree standpoint. What do you think?

    2) Do you plan on doing any sort of guesses on the type of numbers we might see from Caps players, and perhaps a rundown on how their record will shape up?

    Thanks, and keep up the great posts!


  11. dumpnchase Says:

    I don’t see Bourque as being an odd man out at all. That he stayed this long into camp is a credit to him and also shows that they like what they’re seeing. I’m betting he makes his NHL debut at some point this season.

    And no, I’m not much for projecting or predicting, I’ll leave that to those with the crystal balls. Suffice it to say I think we’re in for an exciting hockey season here in the District, and I cen’t remember being so anxious and excited for a season to start.

  12. Mike Livingston Says:

    Expansion is going to happen… that’s a given. The question I have is if they go to 32 teams, are they going t go to 8 team divisions, or 8 4 team divisions like the NFL.

    If the owners really wanted to go berzerk they could do this:

    1) Change the game to a permanent 4-on-4.

    2) Expand in six new teams (adding 3 in the Canadian markets that lost teams, along with Vegas, KC and Portland, Oregon). By doing this, the number of jobs in the NHL remains the same. Rosters would be cut from 23 to 20, and game rosters would be cut from 20 to 16 (9 forwards, 5 defense, 2 goalies, or 8 forwards, 6 defense and 2 goalies).

    It benefits the owners as each team’s expenses would go down (fewer players = lower salaries, less equipment, etc.) while overall league revenue goes up (there’d be more games to gain revenue).

    It benefits the players since there’d be no loss of jobs, but there’d be more revenue coming in, meaning a higher salary cap.

    Does it make sense for those of us who watch the game? I don’t know.

    Something to think about though.

    As for Seattle… they need an arena that is hockey capable. The arena the Sonics play in can be configured for hockey, but not very well, much like the arenas in Phoenix and Miami when the Coyotes and Panthers joined the league. They’re now in hockey-only facilities for that reason.

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