The lockout shortened Sabres schedule is out, and I'm really digging it. I've mentioned on-air numerous times over the past few years how the length of the NHL season, combined with a lower quality of play and being overcoached (more on that later) has led to too many mediocre nights. I'm a firm believer in a 72 game schedule, and playoffs being among teams ranked 1-16 (1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, etc.,) with first round being best of 5, and playing on back to back nights being the norm. It works...anyone who watched NHL playoffs in the 70's, before TV and marketing mucked things up, knows it. Get it all done by early June, not late.
Which is exactly how the 48 game schedule works. Teams playing 3 to 4 times a week. Lots of back to back games. Even a Tuesday night in February vs a dog team like Columbus or the Islanders has a sense of urgency. (I know the Sabres don't play Columbus...it's used simply as an example).
The league has been plagued far too long by dreary mid-season games that players just wanna get through. I remember Brian Campbell telling me about this exact thing a few years ago about games in places like Uniondale and Atlanta...something like "We just wanna get to the rink, play solid, get our two points, and get home." I can't blame players for thinking that way, but it too often equates to success for the players, and boredom for fans. A result of a far too long hockey season.
So this next 4 months will be a fast dash. The players can handle it...they are so well conditioned. Unlike the 50's and 60's where they had REAL second jobs. Today their second job is to maintain their body. And it should be...it's their meal ticket.
And why have I been so down on the quality of the NHL for the past decade?
At least 3 too many teams in the league. About 60 players who should be in the minors have NHL jobs. Remember when players on the 3rd and 4th lines of teams scared you? Now, you're not even sure who will be on those lines night to night.4th liners used to play consistantly. Now, if it's a tight playoff game, they may never see the ice.
Overcoaching and implementation of "on-ice systems" in place of fluid play. Coaches have been forced to resort to this to make up for having 3 guys on each roster who should probably be in the AHL. And because rosters have less talent, even at the top.
All the buildings look the same. Like movie theaters. If you took the logos off the ice, and put the same color seats in each bulding, you may have to watch 5 minutes to know where the game was being played. 30 years ago, you could instantly know where the game was being played simply by where the Zamboni entrance was, the style of the organist, or the angle of the seats in the corner.
So I'm super happy for this year's compressed schedule. Bring it on! And by the way, a long while ago, I think the the mid 80's, the NHLPA said they would take a reduction in pay for going back to a 72 game schedule. The owners said "No," as they needed the extra games to make $$$. See, it's always been about the money!