29 October 2007
Over the next month the Avs will play 13 games, 10 of those games will be against fellow Northwest foes, this will increase the stretch of mainly NW division opponents to an almost absurd 15 out of 19 games of playing NW rivals. In December, the Avs will play exactly one game, out of 14, against a NW division foe and in January they will play another whopping one game against the NW. The Avs then play a pretty balanced schedule until late in the season where they finish with 9 in a row against NW rivals.
The problem is that NW divisional rival games are more important than games against other conference foes, which in turn are more important than games against the Eastern Conference. When you schedule so few of those divisional games against your NW foes in December and January you're basically telling the fans, these months aren't as important. These games aren't as important. Save your money for later in the season when the games ARE important.
I don't have too much of a problem with the glut of divisional games at the end of the season, especially in the Northwest. The Northwest is expected (and is shaping up to be) incredibly competitive, and these teams will be battling for playoff positioning, or even playoff spots late in the season. In the West, getting a 3-seed is going to be critical for playoff advancement so battling NW teams will make that race to #3 more exciting for everyone.
But early in the season, the playoff lines haven't been drawn yet and teams are still jockeying for position and spreading themselves out. While the games are important the divisional rivalries don't take as much precedence as playing well and gelling, at least for fans. Look at the posts from all the Avs blogs. We are way more concerned about how the D is looking (pretty bad so far) and how the goaltenders are playing (pretty well) than how Vancouver, Minnesota, or Calgary is doing. Why? we know that if they are doing poorly (Vancouver) they have time to correct themselves, and if they are on fire (Minnesota until recently) they will probably come back down. It's not time to worry about them, yet.
If the NHL is going to insist on this division rivalry format (of which I don't have a problem with to be honest) they should at least do it right. The division games should be mixed in with the other games until late in the season where the importance should be placed on the division games. Yes a point in November is the same as a point in March in the grand scheme of things, but in reality a 4-2 win over Minnesota in November isn't as anticipated, emotional, or intense as a 4-2 win over 1st place Minnesota in late February, or March.