Monday, March 17, 2008

Red Wings' Closing Schedule Nauseating

As if you need any more proof that the NHL's schedule is cockeyed and in desperate need of repair, take a look at the Red Wings' menu (home games in CAPS):

Yesterday - at Columbus
Wednesday - COLUMBUS
Thursday - at Nashville
Saturday - at Columbus
Mar. 25 - at. St. Louis
Mar. 28 - ST. LOUIS
Apr. 2- at Chicago
Apr. 6 - CHICAGO

Doesn't that just get your juices flowing?

Good grief.

I know what the league is trying to do here. They mean to augment what they hope will be stirring divisional races with nothing but divisional games down the stretch. Not a totally bad concept, but here's the deal: divisional races mean very little, in a playoff system where the top eight teams in each conference qualify, regardless of division. It would come into play when a division is so poor that if you don't win it, you don't qualify for the playoffs at all. But that's highly unlikely. Otherwise, all that's at stake are post-season seedings -- and we know how much that matters in the zany world of NHL playoff hockey.

I must admit, though, that I wouldn't be nearly as cranky if all these divisional games were happening in the East, and the Red Wings were playing endless games against Boston, New York, or Toronto. Or Montreal. But the Blue Jackets, Predators, and Blues just don't do it for me. And I only tolerate the Blackhawks because they're an Original Six team, and they're on the way back to respectability.

If you've happened upon this blog with any degree of consistency (and if you have, I thank you), you know that this is a frequent beef of mine. Guilty as charged. Nothing really new here, but it's like any other pet peeve: you can only suppress your disdain for so long. Then you need to vent, and then you're fine again until the next implosion.

Playing the same teams over and over again was fine pre-expansion, because that's all there were. Besides, it was compelling when those clubs faced each other 14 times a year; made for some great rivalries and personal grudges. But playing the same clubs ad nauseam when there are 30 teams in the league isn't cute anymore.

At least next season, there's some relief on the horizon.

The NHL will cut back from eight games with divisional opponents to six, opening things up for more inter-conference matches. It's a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, three games with the Blue Jackets in seven days. Lovely.

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