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Unbalancing Act

When the lockout ended, the NHL implemented a new schedule format. The unbalanced schedule saw teams face division opponents eight times during the season, while facing only ten non-conference opponents. This upset the teams/fans that did not benefit from hosting stars like Crosby and Ovechkin.

Each year since, there has been growing support for changing the format to ensure that every team play against eachother at least once. It appears that the NHL has finally recognized the need to change the schedule as a new format was agreed on in principle at today’s Board of Governors meetings in Chicago . The NHL Board of Governors need 2/3rds majority to adopt the new schedule format, but TSN reports that Gary Bettman was confident he would get those votes. (Bettman was also confident that Florida and Nashville were viable hockey markets, but I think he may be right this time). The voting will take place in November.

This move is long overdue. The new format will ensure that the league’s stars, like Crosby, play in every arena at least once a season. As eight of the top ten scorers last year were from Eastern Conference teams, fans in Western Conference cities did not get the opportunity to see many of the elite players in the NHL.

In addition to schedule changes, headshots were also front and centre at today’s meetings. Colin Campbell and the NHL announced that they will be monitoring headshots more closely this season. This can only be a good thing. Each year there are a number of hits to the head which are by definition “clean” hits, but, in my opinion, should have no place in the game. Last year, many players suffered severe head injuries as a result of direct hits to the head. To name a few; Pittsburgh’s Colby Armstrong here and here and by Raffi Torres here. Players are getting carted off on stretchers with career threatening concussions. The NHL does not want retired players to end up like NFLers . It is inevitable that this year someone will get hit in the head by a “clean” check and suffer serious injuries. Unfortunately, it may take someone to die of head injuries for the NHL to finally take action on headshots. I hope for the safety of the players and the game that they start punishing players like Colby Armstrong for going for hits to the head.

In other news
In a contract year, the aging star Markus Naslund is looking to rebound. The Swedish winger posted an abysmal season last year recording 24 goals and 36 assists and looked lethargic at times. Hopefully he can rebound to his 48 goal season of 02-03. I mean, this guy was on the cover of NHL 2005 and has been on the decline since the lockout. The Canucks need him to return to form this year.

Dustin Penner is feeling the pressure in Edmonton. When you become overpaid in a desperate move by a desperate GM, he doesn’t have much choice but to feel the pressure to perform at a high level. I’m curious what return Brian Burke will get out of all those picks in next years draft, if history repeats itself, it should be good a good move for Burke to have not re-signed Penner.

See you in the morning