2021-22 Potential Schedule Formats Options

Well, the Canadian division finally had its first cases of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia of the Montreal Canadiens were both placed on the league’s protocol after one can only imagine are positive tests. The two Finnish players skated with their team earlier in the morning and knowing how contagious the virus is, there’s a strong possibility that they could have spread it to other members of the team and that’s why the NHL and the Canadiens aren’t taking any chances by cancelling games. In the meantime, live goes on around the league and so do we.

Let’s all take a break with the ever constant trade deadline talks and focus on something league-wide that will affect hockey as we know it for our favourite NHL teams. The realignment of divisions and the possibility of schedule for the 2021-22 season. The arrival of the Seattle Kraken into the NHL will finally have a balanced number of 16 teams in each of the Eastern and Western Conference or, if the NHL decides to do so, provide four divisions of eight teams.

Here’s what the divisions will likely look like, if the NHL decides to stick with that format. The Arizona Coyotes will pass from the Pacific to the Central, leaving their spot for Seattle.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
ATLANTICMETROPOLITAN
Boston BruinsCarolina Hurricanes
Buffalo SabresColumbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red WingsNew Jersey Devils
Florida PanthersNew York Islanders
Montreal CanadiensNew York Rangers
Ottawa SenatorsPhiladelphia Flyers
Tampa Bay LightningPittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Maple LeafsWashington Capitals
WESTERN CONFERENCE
CENTRALPACIFIC
Arizona CoyotesAnaheim Ducks
Chicago BlackhawksCalgary Flames
Colorado AvalancheEdmonton Oilers
Dallas StarsLos Angeles Kings
Minnesota WildSan Jose Sharks
Nashville PredatorsSeattle Kraken
St. Louis BluesVancouver Canucks
Winnipeg JetsVegas Golden Knights

A couple of years ago, the NHL had decided to ensure that each team faces each other at least twice in a season. After all, everyone wanted to see the Connor McDavids, Sidney Crosbys and Alex Ovechkins of the league. I personally like that too as I get to go watch the Habs in Vancouver once a year. With 32 teams however, it’s a bit more difficult to do. So here are two options if the league decided to keep the regular season’s games within the same Conference.

CONFERENCE ONLY SCHEDULE

With the following three options, teams would not be facing the other Conference during the regular season. They could then decide at what point in the playoffs they criss-cross. Such formats would cut on travel, but would prevent fans from seing the leagues’ top players aside from on TV.

1 – Option A: No Divisions

With this option, teams would play their entire season within the Conference evenly, either five (5) or six (6) times each. Forget divisions, teams would be ranked from one to 16 and the top eight would make the playoffs. Hopefully, the league would then go 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 in those playoffs.

Total Games: 75 GP if 5 times, 90 GP if 6 times

2 – Option B: With Divisions

Here, teams play all seven (7) other teams in the Division seven (7) or eight (8) times each (49 GP or 56 GP). They also play the other eight (8) teams in the same Conference (other Division) four (4) times (32 GP).

Total Games: 81 GP if 7 times, 88 GP if 8 times

3 – Option C: With Division, more balanced Conference

Teams would play all seven (7) other teams in the Division six (6) times (42 GP). They would also play the other eight (8) teams in the same Conference (other Division) five (5) times (40 GP)

Total Games: 82 GP

BALANCED SCHEDULE

This season has opened our eyes to a few things. For example, Marc Bergevin recently mentioned liking the mini-series against teams when visiting Cities, cutting down a bit on travel. I have to admit that I like it too, although it should be limited to two games, in my humble opinion. And with the proposed schedule formats below, you will notice that it will be impossible to do for the most part if the NHL insists on every teams playing each other during the regular season.

4 – Option D: Four Divisions – League balance

Each team would be playing all seven (7) other teams in the Division four (4) times (28 GP). They would complete their schedule by playing the other 24 teams twice each, once at home and once on the road (48 GP).

Total Games: 76 GP

5 – Option E: Two Conferences – No Divisions

Play the 15 other teams in the Conference three (3) times each (45 GP), then play the 16 teams in the other Conference twice each, once at home and once on the road (32 GP).

Total Games: 77 GP

6 – Option F: Four Divisions – Two Conferences

A bit more complex, teams play the other seven (7) teams in their Division four (4) times (28 GP). They would also play the other eight (8) teams in your Conference three (3) times (24 GP) and the 16 teams in the other Conference twice, once at home and once on the road (32 GP).

Total Games: 84 GP

Conclusion

Believe me, there are other options as well but the six mentioned above make for more balanced schedules, more evenly distributed, trying not to give some teams an advantage over the others by facing a weaker or stronger team more often than their opponents. It will be interesting to see what the NHL decides, as some of those options would require changes in the number of games played. When doing that, they will need the NHLPA to get on board. Further, trying to do that with a flat cap for a few years should make for an interesting dynamic. Which option do YOU like best? Or do you have another brilliant idea that this old mind didn’t consider?

On a side note, the NHL has announced some changes to the Draft lottery. Much, much needed I’d say.

NHL Over-Expansion Leading to Diluted Talent

NHL 32 Teams Revamp

NHL Playoffs Format

4 thoughts on “2021-22 Potential Schedule Formats Options

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t think of a schedule format that has each team playing each other team twice, then adding 2 games to a brother division, and four games to a division. So, you could have 8 four team divisions that might look like this:

    The four teams in a division play each other 6 times each. They play the brother division four times each. Each of the division winners from the eight divisions get a playoff spot, and home ice in the first round. The remaining eight can come from either each division (second place finisher) or two each from the brother divisions. So, if the points leader from these divisions are in the order of Habs, Leafs, Senators, and Jets, the Jets start the first round at home against the Leafs, while the Habs get the Senators. After two rounds, the playoffs reseed, as they are doing this year.

    One suggested split of divisions/mini conferences:

    Sabres, Leafs, Senators, Habs brother division with Jets, Oilers, Flames, and Canucks.
    Devils, Rangers, Islanders, Bruins brother with Capitals, Hurricanes, Lightning, and Panthers
    Flyers, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Red Wings brother with Wild, Blackhawks, Blues, and Predators
    Stars, Avalanche, Coyotes and Golden Knights brother with Ducks, Kings, Sharks, and Kracken.

    If the NHL wanted to get creative, it could change the brother division each year.

    I also have a modified version of the above where there are two conferences, and you take eight games played away from one conference and add those to the other two four team divisions in your conference. So, every other year you would play a team from the other conference only once, but you would only not see a player from that conference every fourth year. So, for example, the Rangers have one game against the Kings this year at home. Next year, the teams play twice. The year after, the Rangers play at the Kings only, and then they play twice the next year, and then the pattern begins again.

    What do you think about the current best of seven format in regards to home games? I think the road team has a considerable advantage until you get to Game 7, if you get there. Look at the current Lightning series – they were the inferior team, yet they get to try to sweep at home. All the road team needs to do is win one of the first two games and it gains home ice advantage. So, I have two ideas: one is to go to a 2-3-1-1 format, where the first two games are played at the road teams home, and the next three at the home team’s home. This way, a superior home team can sweep and win at home, or win in five if it splits the first two. The other option is to move to a 1-2-2-1-1 format, where the home team gets the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh games at home – again maximizing the chance that the home team can actually clinch at home.

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