Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
We can all agree that there's no way the lockout ends in time for Gary Bettman's fictional 82-game full season, right?
They'd have to agree to the new CBA, like, as I'm writing this, for the Nov. 2 cutoff date to be met; and even then, it might be a stretch.
I know the League canceled the dates — not the games, an important distinction — through Nov. 1 on Friday. There are also rumors that when the next batch of cancellations comes, it could be larger than the two preceding it. At this point, I think I'm starting to be fine with that, because I came to the realization that a season shortened by 24 games could make for the best one ever.
I decided the other day that what I'd really like to see — and I know it'll never ever happen for a bunch of reasons — is for the NHL to go to a 58-game schedule, just this once. In it, each team could play every other team in the league twice, once at home, and once on the road. In a league that loves reminding everyone about its competitive balance, what better schedule could exist than that?
It solves a lot of problems about competitive balance as well. No longer would the Canucks, for example, get to beat up on Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota and Colorado a combined 24 games a season as a means of padding their Presidents Trophy credentials while teams in the Central play their way through a 24-date divisional meat grinder.
This way, all 30 teams' playing field for making the playoffs and racking up wins over the course of a season becomes as level as it can possibly be.
(Coming Up: More Alex Ovechkin threats; Pascal Dupuis is fiscally responsible; Nik Kronwall, next captain of the Red Wings?; Predators talk lockout with fans; Don Cherry high on Habs; Islanders to Staten Island; Rich Clune picks the wrong fight; getting Scott Gomez to the Flames; goalie issues for the Blue Jackets and Flyers; and a beautiful goal from the NCAA.)
The Jets play the Oilers just as much as the Kings play the Panthers, and there can be little complaining about strength of schedule. Of course, injuries and other factors will play a part in individual contests, but over the course of 58 games, it works itself out.
This also preserves the slight randomness of what a shorter season can do to get teams into the playoffs when they otherwise might not have. The thing to remember is that playing 82 games gives you a really good idea of teams who deserve to be in the playoffs, so by definition playing 29 percent or so fewer makes it easier for more chaos.
Perhaps one reason it'll never happen is, of course, that teams will object to all the travel.
Even one two-week road trip that bumps six or seven Western Conference road opponents off the docket for teams in the East will be trying, and you know the Red Wings will have a lot to say about all of it as well. This also disproportionately plays to the advantage of Western Conference teams because when they come to the East Coast, they won't have nearly as much travel to deal with going from one city to the next. The NHLPA would probably kick up a bit of a stink about that, and the owners won't be happy to foot the bill for all that jet fuel.
The other issues is that games like, say, Toronto versus Montreal or Detroit versus Chicago (and so forth) are a big deal for this League; and only having two of them a year doesn't make much sense from either a publicity or financial perspective. That, and geography, are why so many long-time rivals are grouped together in the same division, and why there's an unbalanced schedule in the first place.
The upside, though, is that every fanbase gets to see every one of the league's best players and teams. No waiting another two years to see the Oilers kids, or Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You want to grow the game again? Make sure every fan gets an eyeful of the very best the league has to offer. This could also increase the potential for those home-and-home grudge matches for closer-together teams that don't always get to play each other.
There's no reason at all, for example, you couldn't have a Thursday/Saturday series between Pittsburgh and Detroit. And that would rule.
Again, it would be interesting to see the NHL adopt the schedule-making policies of other leagues, like those in soccer, just for a year. It works very, very well over there, and could work just as well here.
Of course, given that it makes even a little bit of sense, we can all rest assured that it can't happen. Not with these guys in charge.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Ducks prospect Nic Kerdiles had his full-season suspension reduced to 10 games by the NCAA, and an Anaheim executive says that's enough for the kid to stay in school and not jump to major juniors. Nonetheless, he won't get to start his freshman season until the end of November.
Boston Bruins: Here's a video of the Kings' Rich Clune biting off way more than he can chew in a game that ended up being Providence's first win of the season. Bobby Robins delivered a savage beating here.
Buffalo Sabres: Mikhail Grigorenko is making a joke out of the QMJHL, scoring 10 goals and 13 assists in the first 11 games of his season. Not bad for a 25-year-old.
Calgary Flames: The Flames, not unlike their northern Albertan neighbors, would really like to build a new rink. But given how things are going in Edmonton, they're really just sitting back and watching, and they're wise to do so. It's a very entertaining situation, after all.
Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Faulk is injured oh no oh no oh no. Oh wait. It's just a muscle strain and he's fine. Dodged a bullet there.
Chicago Blackhawks: Poor Carter Hutton. His Rockford IceHogs have played four games, and he's been very good, allowing just nine goals in that time. Nonetheless, the team is 0-3-1 because it has scored just five goals in those four games. Not good enough, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw.
Colorado Avalanche: Tyson Barrie had a goal and two assists in Lake Erie's win over Oklahoma City, which isn't such a bad team to do that against.
Columbus Blue Jackets: I clicked this link about the Blue Jackets' organizational depth expecting a laugh, and I was richly rewarded by that goaltending situation. Man, I almost forgot they were really willing to enter the season with a Sergei Bobrovsky/Steve Mason combo in net. Is there a place lower than 30th?
Dallas Stars: Not a good weekend for the Texas Stars' PK. It went 38 percent (killing 3 of 8) in a weekend sweep at the hands of Houston. Now, okay, Houston is super-talented. But try to keep the percentage above 50 for the rest of the season.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Could Nik Kronwall be the next captain of the Red Wings? I mean, he probably has enough frequent flyer miles saved up, right?
Edmonton Oilers: Ben Eager really hit a guy with a chair in a Toronto bar? That's not the Ben Eager I know. I'm still waiting for the police report to confirm whether the guy was facing away from him.
Florida Panthers: The San Antonio Rampage won 1-0 over Milwaukee. Wow, that Jacob Markstrom kid really is the future of the fra… what's that? Dov Grumet-Morris was in net? And Markstrom has a 3.01/.908 line this season? Hmm. Might wanna start looking into that Luongo situation again.
Los Angeles Kings: The LA Kings won something called the Mobile Excellence Award, so you know Matt Greene wasn't involved.
Minnesota Wild: Craig Leipold recently told a group of entrepreneurs that they have to come up with a "bodacious" idea to be successful. Yeah, like signing contracts in bad faith and almost single-handedly causing the lockout.
Montreal Canadiens: Don Cherry is hyped for the current Canadiens roster. Which is weird because I checked and there's only two Good Ontario Boys on it.
Nashville Predators: Someone tell Gary Bettman there were Preds employees who had the audacity to actually discuss the lockout with season-ticket holders. The nerve! Fine them into oblivion, Gary.
New Jersey Devils: This is pretty much the do-or-die, make-or-break season in Bobby Butler's career. So it doesn't bode well that he has a measly single assist through three games.
New York Islanders: The Islanders on Staten Island. That's a new one. Although, I do like the idea of them being straight from the slums of Shaolin.
New York Rangers: The Connecticut Whale are 0-3-1 to start the year, but at least Kyle Jean, a rookie and free agent signing, has six points in those four games.
Ottawa Senators: I love what a lunatic Robin Lehner is. He tried to fight two different guys, then settled for beating the hell out of Riku Helenius. (And sure the Senators blew that 5-0 lead but still, fun.)
Philadelphia Flyers: What a headline: "Is Ilya Bryzgalov's KHL inconsistency reason for concern?" Yeah I dunno what about his NHL inconsistency?
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 73 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. And now, even Glendale's mayor is all like, "Yeah would it really be the worst thing in the world if they left though? Because, like, then we'd get to have libraries and stuff still. Do people like that? Libraries? I feel like they do. Anyway the no one cares about the Coyotes. Just think about it."
Pittsburgh Penguins: Pascal Dupuis has saved a lot of the several million dollars he's made in his 10-year NHL career and therefore isn't all that worried about money right now. What a concept.
San Jose Sharks: The Worcester Sharks have designs on making the AHL playoffs this season. Their coach, who's been behind the bench there for 15 seasons, thinks they have five or six 20-goal scorers on the roster.
St. Louis Blues: Actual hockey fan on seeing her first AHL fight: "I was like, yay!" That red-haired 10-year-old girl is part of the problem in hockey's culture of violence.
Tampa Bay Lightning: I swear if this lockout means we've seen the last of Marty St. Louis I'm gonna be pissed.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Clarke MacArthur knows what it is: "A week ago, it would be easy to get all excited. Then after this, you could be down in the dumps again." Blah.
Vancouver Canucks: Real nice goal from Zack Kassian in Friday's shootout win over Abbotsford (skip to 30 seconds in).
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is back to threatening to stay in the KHL. Big talk, bud. No one buys it.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets may regret drafting Jacob Trouba? Because he might not one day be as good as Filip Forsberg could be? Oh boy are we ever in the middle of a lockout. (For the record, Trouba, a defenseman, has two goals and two assists as a freshman at the University of Michigan.)
Play of the Weekend
PRETTY NICE goal by Alex Petan of Michigan Tech, as the Huskies knocked off No. 1 Minnesota on Friday night. (They lost on Saturday, but that game was awful close too.)
Gold Star Award
Decent weekend for Justin Schultz. Three goals, two of them shorthanded, and an assist in two games. He now has 4-2-6 in four AHL games. That signing could work out okay for Edmonton.
Minus of the Weekend
Pierre LeBrun says he spoke with a team executive who says if there's no deal struck this week, you might as well go ahead and cancel the whole season. Good to see Gary's willing to negotiate.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "noahhabib" is trying to infuriate two fanbases at once.
Whatcha got under the foil, Mr. Party Pooper? Some party poop?
Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.