Sunday, November 8, 2009

How to Save the NHL

I have several good friends with whom I meet regularly at a philosophical insitution known as the Grey Goat. We discuss several of the burning issues of the day at this hall of learning. As proud Canadians ( well, some of us anyway ) we are concerned about the state of the National Hockey League. Since several of my colleagues are from the British Isles ( including myself ) there is a way to save the NHL from a continuation of the flaccid play we have been subjected to. I have taken the opportunity here to offer a summary of our modest proposal for hockey salvation.

The NHL is currently organized in this way. There are thirty teams, twenty-four of which are based in the United States and six are in Canada. The league is divided into two conferences, East and West, consisting of fifteen teams each. Within each conference are three divisions of five teams. The divisions are organized along rough geographic lines, and done so to allow more games between divisional teams, creating more rivalries, and cutting down on travel costs. The playoffs involve the three divisional champions, regardless of their records, getting the top seeds, followed by the next five finishers, based on their records in the regular season. Teams play off in three conference rounds, with the conference champions going for the Stanley Cup.

The current structure is moribund. It does not create a competitive edge for the member teams. Instead, mediocrity abounds. The time for a change is now.

We humbly suggest that the NHL borrows the structure of the English Football Association and create a type of "premiership" and a relegation-promotion system in order to boost the competitive edge for the teams in the NHL.

We suggest that the NHL create two leagues. Let's call them, for the sake of argument, NHL 1 and NHL 2.

NHL 1 would consist of the 15 top teams in the league. There would be no divisional or conference organization: the league would be a single entity. NHL 2 would consist of the lower 15 teams in the league.

In NHL 1 the top 8 teams would qualify for playoff action. These teams would play three rounds of playoffs, with the winner receiving the highest honour in hockey: the Stanley Cup.

In NHL 2 the top 8 teams would also qualify for playoff action. These teams would play three rounds of playoffs, with the winner receiving one of the lesser trophies in the NHL. ( Prince of Wales Trophy, the President's Cup, the Clarence Campbell Cup, whatever.)

In the post season, the league would insitute a relegation-promotion process. The four lowest teams in NHL1, the teams who had the worst record in that league, would be relegated to NHL 2 for the following season. The four teams making the semi-finals in NHL 2 would be promoted into NHL 1 for the following season.

The NHL entry draft, which is the draft of qualifying junior or college players would be based on the following order:

- the 4 teams promoted from NHL 2 to NHL 1 would receive the first 4 picks, based on a lottery
- the 8 teams making the playoffs in NHL 1 would receive the next 8 picks, based on a lottery
- the 11 teams remaining in NHL 2 would receive the next 11 picks, based on a lottery
- the remaining teams would receive the next picks, based on a lottery

We believe this system would encourage teams to finish as high as they could in their respective leagues. We also believe that teams in the playoff structures would be given incentives to win, not just for the championships of their leagues, but for the best available draft choices.

Relegation-promotion works well in the English FA. We believe it will work as effectively in the NHL.

Hockey fans are encouraged to offer their input on this proposal.

Our second suggestion is for hockey to suspend operations forever, and take up lacrosse.

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