Long Division: NHL Schedule Ignores History to Focus on Geography

While the Detroit Red Wings may be happy with the new division-friendly schedule in terms of team travel, the fans don’t seem to be.

As per the new NHL schedule, teams will now face divisional opponents a whopping eight times each, or 32 of their 82 total games. Seventy-two games are against teams in their own conference, and games against the other conference (one game each against two divisions, alternating yearly) will round out the final ten. Wouldn’t you know it – the Central Division, featuring two Original Six teams, will not face the Northeast Division, featuring two more. Detroit will not play the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Well, after September. The Wings do meet the Leafs for a home and home series to close out the exhibition schedule. Does that really even count?

Not seeing the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres can be forgiven. Sure, the Bruins are part of the Original Six too, but there doesn’t seem to be the sense of a classic battle with them. As exciting as the Ottawa Senators can be, that’s fine too. We won’t get to see Dominik Hasek in what could be his final season, but we all know how his retirements go. Oh, we’ll sit through three straight games against the Chicago Blackhawks from October 27 to November 1. They have Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Lapointe and Adrian Aucoin now! Those games might be fun. We’ll even accept the two games in a row visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets right before that. The rivalry might build there with Adam Foote donning the green bee. But the fans want to see Toronto and Montreal. To try and rebuild the game around the fans and to take a part of history away from them can’t be the right thing for the NHL to do. Sure, when April comes and the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins are points away from each other, one team could get an edge playing them late in the season. Only problem is — they don’t. Those two teams square off once in March and once in April. They meet eight times, but not when it counts. The Edmonton Oilers play the Calgary Flames eight times (twelve if you count preseason), and yet just twice after January 23.

The NHL can’t predict who will be fighting for a division title in April. They did make the final week of the season all divisional games, didn’t they? Considering the Red Wings play the Dallas Stars one night before they close the season in Nashville, it doesn’t appear they did. Let’s be realistic here, no matter what moves these teams made during the off-season, does it make much sense for the Wings to play every team in the Central except St. Louis in April? Since the divisional re-alignment of the league created the Central Division, only one season did one of those two teams not win the Central, and the Dallas Stars that did aren’t there anymore.

So, what does this new schedule do? Games against your own division really only matter if winning them counts for something other than two points nobody needs. If those games are going to be scattered throughout the season and not near the end when winning games is more crucial, why not cut them by two or four apiece, and let the fans see the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens in December?nbsp; In either 2006-2007 or 2007-2008, the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks won’t play games against the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens. The All-Canadian triple-header that has been so successful in the past few seasons won’t exist. And it’s a good bet that that will be harder to swallow than St. Louis not getting to play Carolina this season.

The NHL brought in shootouts and eliminated tie games to please the fans. Their marketing plan will allow fans to see things they couldn’t see before. Yes, they did have to throw together a 2,460-game schedule rather quickly, although this format seems rather thought out, but for the wrong reason. The fans want to see all rivalries, not just divisional.

Would we be that upset if the Wings play Columbus only six times?

Defense-first for Wings in NHL Draft

The Detroit Red Wings selected Czech Jakub Kindl with their first-round pick in Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft. At 19th overall, the defenseman for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers was Detroit’s highest draft pick since they selected Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick in 1991.

Kindl was highly-touted last fall when he came to the OHL but his stock dropped when he had a bad first season in North America.

They shifted from a European defenseman to a local forward for their second pick, selecting Justin Abdelkader of Muskegon, Michigan, with the 42nd overall choice. A graduate of Mona Shores High School, the 18-year old played with Cedar Rapids of the USHL last season and will join Michigan State University this fall.

The Wings went back to Europe for their next two picks, selecting Christofer Lofberg of the SEL’s Djurgarden in the third round and fellow Swede Mattias Ritola of Leksand in the fourth.

The Red Wings rounded out their selections with forward Darren Helm of Winnipeg; big Swedish forward Johan Ryno; defenceman Jeff May of Richmond, British Columbia; Finnish forward Juho Mielonen; and defenseman Bretton Stamler of Calgary.

Locked-out Wings Help Honor Larionov

When former Red Wing Igor Larionov retired from the NHL last spring, he knew he had one game left in him. For a year, Larionov had been planning one final game in Moscow, where is Russian fans could see him skate for the last time.

With the NHL locked out and games put on hold, many of Larionov’s former teammates were able to make the trip to Russia with him, to honor the player who last year was the oldest in the NHL.

Larionov assembled a team of Russian All-Stars to take on a team representing the rest of the world, comprised mostly of his former teammates. Retired Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman returned to the bench along side former associate coaches Dave Lewis and Barry Smith to lead the world team while Larionov’s former linemates from the Soviet Red Army team, Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov, coached the Russian team.

New Jersey Devils Martin Brodeur, Patrick Elias, Scott Gomez and Jay Pandolfo joined Red Wings Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Mathieu Dandenault, Kris Draper, Jiri Fischer, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Brendan Shanahan, Ray Whitney and Henrik Zetterberg on the World team. Former Red Wings Steve Duchesne, Martin Lapointe, Chris Osgood and Luc Robitaille also played.

The Russian squad was made up of Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Gonchar, Valeri Kamensky, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Larionov, Danny Markov, Evgeni Nabokov, Andrei Nikolishin, Sergei Samsonov and Oleg Tverdovsky.

The World team, most of whom hadn’t played competitively since last season, got off to a slow start and Brodeur allowed early goals to Nikolishin and Samsonov. McCarty responded later in the period and the Russians had a 2-1 lead after one period.

Osgood replaced Brodeur between the pipes for the second period but couldn’t stop Larionov from scoring on a quick shot from the slot, as Larionov capped his career with a goal in his final game in front of his home crowd.

For the third period, Larionov and Yzerman switched teams, complete with Yzerman donning a Russian jersey with his name in Cyrillic on the back. Yzerman, possibly playing in his final game as well, scored twice for the Russians as they held off the World team for a 6-5 win.

2001-2002 NHL Schedule Released

The National Hockey League released it’s schedule for the 2001-2002 season on Wednesday.

The Red Wings will start the season in San Jose on October 4. Detroit’s home opener will be on October 10 against Calgary.

Early in the season, the Red Wings will host the Buffalo Sabres (October 12) and Los Angeles Kings (October 20). The Wings aquired Vezina-winning goaltender Dominik Hasek from the Sabres for Slava Kozlov and a draft pick, and signed former-King Luc Robitaille as a free agent.

The Red Wings will play their first game against Aaron Ward and his new team in Carolina on October 30.

Detroit’s only matchup with the Boston Bruins, with whom former Red Wing Martin Lapointe signed as a free agent, is March 16 in Boston.

The first meeting between the Wings and arch-rival Colorado will take place on December 5 in Detroit.

The season ends with what could be a crucial home-and-home series against division rival St. Louis on April 13 and 14.

Wings Sign Luc, Lose Lapointe

Detroit lost one forward and signed another Tuesday, almost overshadowing Dominik Hasek‘s first appearance as a Red Wing.

Ten year Red Wing Martin Lapointe signed a reported five-year, $20 million deal with the Boston Bruins. Lapointe, a Group V (unrestricted) free agent, was one of the most sought after free agents of the summer, and was highly unlikely to return to the Detroit team with which he won two Stanley Cups.

Luc Robitaille, a fifteen season NHL veteran, signed a two year, $9 million deal with Detroit, the team he helped eliminate from the playoffs last spring.

Robitaille joins Hasek and defenseman Fredrik Olausson as the only offseason aquistions of the Red Wings.