So last night on Rink Side Rants, the topic of the RDO camp came up, and what the NHL needs to do to make the league better and more interesting.
One thing that popped up, that has been talked about a lot on our weekly live podcast, is making the playoffs – or at least division titles more meaningful.
Take the NFL for example. Of the sixteen regular season games, six are divisional games. Thats 37.5 percent of your regular season. The NHL plays 24 divisional games, or 29.26 percent of their games. So do division titles mean less? With the new league balanced schedules, yes.
In the NHL, a team has more games against non-divisional opponents, which takes the lack luster out of winning the division. Six teams every year get to raise a banner signifying their position as the top team in their division, but how many this year actually deserve it?
Lets start with the Northeast.
Buffalo won the division with a record of 45-27-10, for 100 points. In the division however, they were 12-8-4, for 28 points. Both Ottawa (44-32-6, 94 pts) and Boston (39-30-13, 91 pts) had better divisional records (31 points and 29 points respectively. Only Montreal and Toronto boasted worst records than the Sabres.
The Atlantic Division was won by the New Jersey Devils, who racked up 30 points against division foes (14-8-2). They were only bested by one other team, the Pittsburgh Penguins who went 15-8-1 for 31 points.
The Washington Capitals were the only team in the Eastern Conference that actually won their division and had the best inter-division record, with a 19-3-2 and thirty points in the Southeast Division.
If you head out West, Chicago, Vancouver, and San Jose all won their respective divisions.
While not by much, the Detroit Red Wings boasted a better Central Division record than the Chicago Blackhawks, and Nashville was only a point behind. Chicago was 15-8-1 for 31 points, Detroit was 14-6-4 for 32 points, and Nashville went 14-8-2 for 30 points.
In the Northwest division Vancouver won their division and boasted a division best 15-7-2 record for 32 points, but was tied with Minnesota in division play – and Minnesota failed to qualify for the playoffs.
In the Pacific Division, San Jose collected 32 points, bested by one point by the Los Angeles Kings who had 33 points.
That leads us to question again, does winning the division really mean something? On October 9th, the Capitals will raise their division banner, and should be the only ones to do so with pride, having the best division record out of all the champs – but that ceremony will draw some lackluster appearance because of their first round defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
The league needs to find a consistent rule base, and scheduling system that is going to be fair, yet put more reliance on winning your division and interconference games, as opposed to having a balanced schedule where you might face everyone in the league. I’d rather have a system that would put more weight on a divisional game as opposed to ensuring that I would see Western Conference teams a certain number of times.