Looking at the Theoretical 48-Game Schedule

With the NHL and NHLPA meeting today to resume negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement – and with the players expected to make a counter-offer to the owners’ proposal from last week – there’s a lot of buzz about the possibility of the 2012-13 season beginning on January 19.

There’s precedent in this schedule, as the abbreviated 1995 slate began on January 20, with the Stanley Cup Finals ending on June 24. While that timeline could be used for this season, the league’s alignment today is drastically different from what it was in 1995, so a new scheduling formula will be needed.

In 1995, the Detroit Red Wings played four of their five Central Division brethren five times for twenty games. They saw the remaining Central Division foe, the Toronto Maple Leafs, four times, for a total of 24 games against their own division. The Wings faced the six Pacific Division teams four times each for another 24 games, resulting in a 48-game schedule.

As the conferences were unbalanced at the time, a different formula would have been required in the two seven-team divisions of the Eastern Conference… I’m not going to get into that.

It’s pretty much assumed that the same intra-conference schedule would be kept for 2013 but now those conferences are made up of fifteen teams split across three divisions. Five games against four divisional opponents plus four games against ten gives us a 60 game season – unmanageable in the time allotted.

What other options do we have? That depends on how you want to balance things out.

Seven games against divisional opponents and two games against everyone else in the conference puts each team at exactly 48 games but is heavily skewed toward the divisional rivalries.

A more even balance could be four games against the division and three against the rest of the conference to get to 46. The remaining two could be randomly selected (or “rivalry matchups”) from either the rest of the conference or the opposing conference (depending on how much the league wants to enforce the intra-conference schedule).

If the league wanted to eliminate the intra-conference aspect of the schedule, I do think there’s an interesting third option. Four games against each team in the division and two games against the rest of the conference for a total of 36 games, leaving 12 available slots to get in an appearance against almost every team in the opposing conference. It’s far from perfect and I have no solution for picking which teams from the opposite conference would be skipped over. I also can’t speak for travel concerns for the teams. I’ve always said, though, that I prefer to see the Red Wings get to play more of the Original Six and this makes that possible.

In all likelihood, I think we’ll see the second option instituted. That is, if a deal can even be reached in time for there to be a season.

TGTW: Wings Fall From Central Lead in Week Twelve

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

The Detroit Red Wings went 1-2 on a Christmas week road trip, dropping them out of first place in the Central Division heading into the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.

Opening their trip in Raleigh on Wednesday, the Red Wings rallied late for a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. After a scoreless first period, the Hurricanes got on the board with a Drayson Bowman goal at 6:30 of the second and made it 2-0 with 1:29 left in the period on a Jamie McBain tally. Pavel Datsyuk cut the lead in half at 3:10 of the third but Eric Staal made it 3-1 at 4:41. Johan Franzen put the Wings back within a goal while shorthanded at 7:27 and Todd Bertuzzi tied things up with 8:21 left in the period. Jonathan Ericsson‘s sixth goal of the year with 2:23 remaining gave Detroit their first lead of the game and they held on for the win. Jimmy Howard made 24 saves on 27 shots in earning the win while Cam Ward stopped 30 of 34 shots for Carolina.

The next night in Pittsburgh would feature no such comeback for the Wings, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Penguins. Chris Kunitz opened the game’s scoring at 4:40 of the first and Tanner Glass made it 2-0 midway through the opening period. Sidney Crosby‘s shorthanded goal at 3:16 of the second extended the lead to three and Kunitz added another with 6:19 left in the middle period. Carlo Colaiacovo finally got the Red Wings on the board with a power play goal with 3:03 remaining but Evgeni Malkin scored with 1:13 left to chase Howard from the Detroit crease. Jonas Gustavsson would face only six shots in the third, stopping them all for a 5-1 final. Howard finished the night with 12 saves on 17 shots in 38:47 of play while Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves on 25 shots.

The Red Wings’ scoring troubles continued on Saturday in Ottawa, where they couldn’t score a goal in a 1-0 loss to the Senators. Daniel Alfredsson scored the game’s only goal at 5:13 of the first period and 28 saves by Robin Lehner made it stand up as the game-winner. Howard rebounded from his awful night in Pittsburgh with a 31-save performance.

With only two of a possible six points earned on the week, the Red Wings fell to third in the Central Division, four points back of both the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators but with two games in hand on the Preds. The Blues are the hottest team in the league heading into the New Year, riding an eight-game winning streak.

The next week will see the Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Winter Classic at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, then host the Nashville Predators in the last game before a five-game road trip.

On the Fallacy of Lockout Business Analogies

This may not go over well given the slight bit of optimism surrounding the NHL lockout after the league’s latest offer to the players but I think it still applies. I also started writing it on Christmas and then spent the next several days sick and left this unfinished, so I’m not going to let that delay stop me from putting an idea out there.

I was talking to my uncle about the lockout at our extended family Christmas party a couple weeks ago. As a small business owner, he’s pretty firmly on the side of the owners while I unapologetically side with the players in the current labor battle.

One of his key arguments was that, as a business owner, if he was losing money because he was paying his employees too much, it would be only logical for him to shut down. Either he temporarily closes up shop to get the employees to take less pay (a lockout) or he goes out of business completely, because it’s bad business to just keep throwing money in that particular pit.

It’s hard to argue with that but there was something bothering me about it and, after letting it bounce around in my head for a bit, I think I’ve figured it out.

Our attempts at analogy are oversimplified. They ignore both the franchise model used by the NHL as a whole and/or the fact that there is a very real scarcity of workers for the league.

The latter, to me, is the simpler one. As much as we talk about there being other outlets to find what we call “hockey” available during this lockout, only the NHL is made up of the 700 (or so) best players in the world. The KHL, AHL, CHL, NCAA, etc. are all “hockey” but they are not the same thing as the NHL.

While most businesses can say they want the best people in the world, only sports leagues that bill themselves as the top league globally actually need that talent because without it they’re not the product they say they are. Eventually it becomes a little self-fulfilling, as for a hockey player, going to the NHL proves that you’re one of the best players in the world.

My uncle’s convenience stores, for example, are not going to attract the top cashiers in the world in the same fashion that the NHL attracts the top hockey players. Attracting top-level talent is also not required, as swapping employees out is going to be less noticeable to his consumers. The quality of my uncle’s employees, the ones he’s worried about paying too much, is not the defining characteristic that it is for the NHL.

My uncle’s business is also not franchise-based, as the NHL is. He can open up shop pretty much wherever he wants and because all of his stores feed into the same pool of money, one under-performing store can drag the rest down.

That’s not the case for the NHL. As much as we’ve been talking about league revenues and expenditures as a whole during this lockout, that’s not how it actually works for the individual businesses. If the Phoenix Coyotes (often picked on in cases like this) lose money, it doesn’t affect the bottom line of the Toronto Maple Leafs in any way.

I won’t go into whether that’s how it should be or whether we see an accurate representation of each team’s finances or anything like that. The point is that most businesses do not follow the franchise model, so a comparison to the NHL is going to be invalid.

We keep seeing arguments made where the players are held to the same standard as the “common worker.” That they should just be happy to have a job. That comparison is invalid. Similarly, we can’t make an analogy between NHL owners and small business owners. There are just too many differences in how their businesses work.

Lake Fenton Winter Classic 2013: Registration Open until Jan 9th; Pond Hockey Event Runs Jan 18-20

Lake_Fenton_Winter_Classic_2013

Finally snow has fallen on Michigan and that means the lakes will be freezing soon and pond hockey will be keeping hockey fans busy during this NHL lockout.

January 18th-20th The Lake Fenton Winter Classic is returning!

There will be eight divisions this year including a women’s division – you just have to be 18 or older to participate in this years event.

“Last year was the first year for the Lake Fenton Winter Classic. We had many obstacles to maneuver around to pull off a successful tournament,” says Sean Lapham, the Lake Fenton Winter Classic Tournament Director.

“This year we have been selected as one of only four featured events for Labatt Pond Hockey in Michigan,” announced Lapham, “A huge honor since this is only our second year…none of this would have been possible without the support of volunteers and sponsors such as Labatt, North American Breweries, Fabiano Brothers, Yamaha, The Fireplace, Lakeside Market, The Moose, and the Fenton Township Fire Department.”

Doubling in size in it’s second year the pond hockey tournament is looking to have 64 teams in 8 different divisions: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Open Rec., Tin Foil, Women’s, CoEd and 50+

The winning team from each division will get their team name engraved on the Des Crowley Memorial Cup and receive free entry into the 2014 Lake Fenton Winter Classic.

Registration closes January 9th so get your team together and sign up today!

Event takes place Friday Jan. 18 thru the 20th on Barnum Lake, behind The Fireplace located at 2238 North Long Lake Road in Fenton Township.

To register go to: www.LakeFentonWinterClassic.com and like the event on Facebook for updates!

TGTW: Wings Remain Atop Central Eleven Weeks In

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

The Detroit Red Wings remain atop the Central Division after the eleventh week of play in the 2012-13 NHL season, but the Nashville Predators have moved into a tie with them, having played one more game. The Predators went 3-0 in a week that saw the Red Wings go 2-1, making up two points lost last week.

The Red Wings opened their week with a 3-2 win over the league-leading Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Todd Bertuzzi scored at 3:57 of the first to get Detroit out to an early lead and Henrik Zetterberg made it 2-0 just 32 seconds later. Darren Helm extended the lead to three goals at 1:03 of the second. Simon Gagne got the Kings on the board with 8:55 left in the middle frame and Anze Kopitar pulled LA to within one with 7:08 left in regulation but Jimmy Howard held on for the win, stopping 26 of 28 shots on the night and ten of 11 in the third.

The New York Islanders continued their run of wins over the Red Wings on Thursday, as Detroit dropped a 6-3 decision. Valtteri Filppula scored the only goal of the first period at 4:17 but the Islanders would score the next five goals. Frans Nielsen tied the game up at 2:15 of the second and Brad Boyes put the Islanders in front with 7:14 left in the period. Kyle Okposo’s power play goal 1:49 later made it 3-1. Josh Bailey made it 4-1 at 8:04 of the third period and Nielsen’s second of the night with 7:00 remaining chased Howard from the Detroit net. Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson scored 1:04 apart to make it 5-3 but Matt Moulson closed out the scoring with 2:38 remaining. Howard made 19 saves on 24 shots in his abbreviated night, with Jonas Gustavsson stopping two of three shots he faced.

The Red Wings appeared to be heading to another loss on Saturday but rallied for a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Drew Miller opened the scoring with a power play goal with 50 seconds left in the first period. Derick Brassard scored at 8:52 and 9:01 of the second to put the Jackets in front and Cam Atkinson made it 3-1 with 6:48 remaining in the middle period. It looked like the Wings would be down a pair heading into the second intermission, but Jonathan Ericsson scored with 49 seconds remaining and again with 31 seconds left to tie things back up. Todd Bertuzzi’s power play goal at 3:15 of the third would be the difference-maker as the Wings went on to win. Howard made 23 saves on 26 shots in the effort.

After eleven weeks of play, Valtteri Filppula leads the Wings in scoring with 40 points, six back of the league-leading Kopitar. Howard’s 19 wins leave him tied for second in the NHL and his five shutouts are tied for first in the league.

The Red Wings hold the Central Division’s top spot by virtue of a game in hand on Nashville, who also has 40 points. The St. Louis Blues sit two points back with a game in hand on Detroit.

The coming week will see the Red Wings play three games on the road after the Christmas break. On Wednesday they’ll visit the Carolina Hurricanes before moving on to see the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

NHLPA Membership Authorizes Disclaimer of Interest

A four-day poll of National Hockey League Players’ Association members has concluded, with the players voting “overwhelmingly” in favor of authorizing their executive board to file a disclaimer of interest by January 2.

The results of the voting have not been announced by the union but individual players have revealed the outcome.

The executive board is not required to file but now has the option of dissolving the union, which would allow players to file a class-action anti-trust lawsuit against the league. The NHL has preemptively attacked that option by filing their own lawsuit, seeking to have their lockout of the players declared legal.

During last year’s National Basketball Association lockout, the National Basketball Players’ Association filed a disclaimer of interest, with the two sides reaching an agreement twelve days later and their season beginning on Christmas.

The NHL cancelled scheduled games through January 14 yesterday.

League Cancels Games Through January 14

The 2012-13 National Hockey League season officially became the 2013 season on Thursday, as the league announced the cancellation of all games through January 14th.

Games through December 30th had previously been cancelled as the league’s lockout of its players’ continues, with the two sides unable to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The announcement of the latest set of games lost comes as the NHLPA membership votes on whether or not to authorize a disclaimer of interest, a move which would effectively dissolve the union and move the CBA battle into the courts. Detroit Red Wings player representative Daniel Cleary expects the measure to pass near-unanimously.

With the latest cancellations, 41 games from the Red Wings’ schedule have been lost, exactly 50% of the original slate.

TGTW: Wings’ Win Streak Hits Six

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

The Detroit Red Wings extended their winning streak to six games in the tenth week of the season, picking up victories over the Boston Bruins, Phoenix Coyotes, and Nashville Predators.

A two-goal second period lifted the Wings to their 2-1 win over the Bruins on Monday night. Pavel Datsyuk and Drew Miller scored in the second half of the middle frame and Adam McQuiad’s third period goal wouldn’t be enough for Boston. Jimmy Howard made 19 saves on 20 shots to earn the win.

On Thursday, Howard faced only twelve shots, allowing one goal in a 5-1 win over the Coyotes. Todd Bertuzzi opened the game’s scoring at 4:08 of the first period and Ian White‘s second of the season made it 2-0 at 8:18. Johan Franzen scored on a power play with 6:49 left in the second period. Phoenix got on the board with a Steve Sullivan power play goal at 5:01 of the third but former Coyote Danny Cleary responded for the Wings just 53 seconds later. Jakub Kindl rounded out the scoring with 7:01 remaining.

On Saturday night in Nashville, the Wings limited the Predators to 17 shots and Howard stopped them all, en route to a 3-0 win. Miller scored with 42 seconds left in the first period, Filppula with 3:14 in the second, and Datsyuk with 6:50 in the third to secure the victory.

After ten weeks, the Red Wings remain atop the Central Division, with two points and a game in hand on the Predators. They’re ten points back of the league-leading Los Angeles Kings.

With his blanking of Nashville, Jimmy Howard moved into a tie with Martin Brodeur for most shutouts in the league with five.

In the coming week, Detroit will host the Kings on Tuesday, the New York Islanders on Thursday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday before taking a break for Christmas.

The Teams That Played Fewer All-Time Games than the League Has Cancelled

Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters points out via Twitter that today’s cancellation of games through December 30th means that more NHL games have been cancelled under Commissioner Gary Bettman than have been played by nearly a third of the league’s current franchises.

Obviously, that’s the nine most recently-added franchises. If you break it down by team (in other words, starting over when a relocation takes place), thirteen of the existing teams have played fewer games than the league has cancelled (the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, and Carolina Hurricanes are added to Rorabaugh’s list). Overall, though?

Counting every time a team relocated to a new market as a new team (in other words, the Red Wings are the same team as the Detroit Cougars and Detroit Falcons, but the Phoenix Coyotes are one team despite their “move” to suburban Glendale, and the Brooklyn Americans never left Madison Square Garden so they’re the same as the New York Americans), the NHL has had 49 total teams.

As previously stated thirteen of those (San Jose, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Dallas, Anaheim, Florida, Colorado, Phoenix, Carolina, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota and Winnipeg) have played fewer than 2224 regular season games. The former teams that fit the bill?

Every single one of them. Here’s the breakdown.

Team GP
Atlanta Flames 636
Atlanta Thrashers 902
California / Oakland (Golden) Seals 698
Cleveland Barons 160
Colorado Rockies 480
Hamilton Tigers 126
Hartford Whalers 1420
Kansas City Scouts 160
Minnesota North Stars 2062
Montreal Maroons 622
Montreal Wanderers 6
New York Americans 784
Ottawa Senators (I) 446
Philadelphia Quakers 44
Pittsburgh Pirates 212
Quebec Bulldogs 24
Quebec Nordiques 1256
St. Louis Eagles 48
Winnipeg Jets (I) 1338

NHL Cancels Games Through December 30

As the National Hockey League’s lockout of its Players’ Association continues, the league announced the cancellation of all games through December 30th on Monday.

All games through December 14th had previously been cancelled. Also lost are the 2013 Winter Classic, to have been held at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, and the 2013 All-Star Game hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In all, 526 games have been cancelled due to the lockout.

Commissioner Gary Bettman indicated that the 48-game schedule used during the lockout-shortened 1995 season is the shortest slate of games the league will consider for a season. During the 2005-05 lockout, a 28-game schedule was briefly considered before the season was cancelled.