17 March 2009
Contributed by resident dead horse flogger, Tilt'd Toledo
I’ve always had this image in my head of what it must be like at the to take part in constructing the upcoming season’s schedule.
I imagine it involves a months-long series of e-mails, phone calls, voice mails, texts, tweets and in Cliff Fletcher’s case, carrier pigeons. There must be some framework to determine who plays whom on what nights. I like to pretend that it’s conducted as a draft, with every GM picking opponents and dates, in turn. They meet with arena representatives from their home arenas to establish which dates are available, and contact the local chamber of commerce to explore all possible marketing tie-ins. When it comes time for them to make their pick, they have the option of choosing a date & place or a date, place & opponent (in the case of home dates), or even choosing an opponent (in the case of “at-large” games). Perhaps the draft order follows the same order from the previous Entry Draft, which would have given FG the 19th overall pick. (Side note: That 19th overall pick at last year’s Entry Draft, which FG had traded to Columbus for Foote, was flipped to Philly for Umberger. The Flyers chose Luca Sbisa)
At some point after last week’s GM meeting in Naples, FL, Tampa Bay GM, Brian Lawton, would have been compelled to make his 1st overall selection of either who, where, or when, like some event planner’s version of a game of Clue. “I’ll take the Panthers, in the St. Pete Times Forum, on the 27th of December.”
From there, it would go on to LA, Atl, StL, Tor Cls, NYI, Phx, and then to Florida, who might respond with, “OK, I’ll take the Lightning, in the BankAtlantic Center, on the 26th of December. Ha!”
And so on, until it came to FG with the 19th pick. The NHL rep gets the Avs brass on the speakerphone and says, “Your 18 colleagues have all made their first choice. None of them have committed you to a single date. Now it’s your turn. What do you do? What do you DO?”
Now it’s probably not done this way at all, but there has to be some system in place that explains why the Avs didn’t face their Division rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, more than twice in the first 5½ months of the calendar. Last night’s game actually marked the half-way point in the Cld/Vcr season series, with three more games to come in the next three weeks. Is this a product of FG’s desire to face who he thought would be the weakest rival, four times in the last month? Was it a result of Vancouver’s belief that facing the Avs four times in the final month would benefit them? Or was it merely a coincidence, aided by a league directive that required a minimum of 6 divisional games between March 15th and April 12th?
I vote for the third option. Nevertheless, there has to be a way for the league to accommodate every team’s wish to, say, open the season at home. Or a way to figure out who gets a four-day Christmas break and who only gets two or three nights off. It has always intrigued me how the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions get to host a game every Thanksgiving. Do they have to concede something to the other teams for that privilege? If FG plays his cards right, maybe next year’s team won’t have to endure 5 games in 5 cities in 8 nights, while digesting next year’s turkey. Or how about that 6-game, 10-day road trip they just wrapped up on Long Island at the Trade Deadline? If the Avs had been only 5 points higher in the standings, imagine how that 1-5 road trip would have knocked them out of contention. That late January home stand should have vaulted the team into contention, but for every 8-straight scheduled in your own rink, there inevitably needs to be a few long trips to make up for it. If more emphasis is placed upon balancing the schedule and capitalizing on local marketing opportunities, any NHL team can create for themselves some slight advantages.
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