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Handling Cross Conference Games


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Not sure how much anyone else has thought about this, but it crossed my mind the other day on possible different ways the NHL can  handle teams playing teams in the opposite Conference.


With re-alignment and the focus on once again playing mostly games within your division, then in your own conference, while still seeing every team at least once, the NHL has made an attempt so that fans in any NHL city at least gets an opportunity to see teams they wouldn't normally see, while intensifying divisional rivalries.


That said, there is no doubt that while the divisional rivalries will remain heated, especially when playoff spots are at stake, the games between teams in opposing conferences many times seem tepid at best.


I know, I know...its been like that for quite awhile.

Where Eastern Team 'A' may play differently against Eastern Team 'B' as opposed to Western Team 'C' because of the points involved in competing for Conference playoff spots.


In fact, I've even heard some announcers and analysts say that a game, say, the Flyers playing the Jets, isn't as "big" as the Flyers playing, say, the Lightning, simply because should the Flyers drop points against the Jets, it wouldn't be the same penalty in regards to playoff points, as it would if the Flyers dropped the same game to the Lightning, whom they may be competing with for a Wild Card position.

And obviously that would be magnified should the Flyers drop a game to a divisional foe like the Pens or Capitals.


While I get the whole idea of conference games being more important, I still think the NHL should try to do a bit more to try to intensify cross conference games.

I am not a fan of manufactured rivalries, far from it, but I think if teams saw each other a bit more cross conference, there could be more situations and incidents where teams begin to develop a genuine 'dislike' for the other, just from seeing them more often.


Not the same as a conference or divisional rival mind you, but if they Flyers, Pens, or Lightning see the Canucks, Avalanche, and Sharks a bit more DURING the season for instance, the chances of the competitive juices boiling over would be much greater....thus, I believe, leading to more competitive and aggressive play when the teams meet again.


So...with only 82 games in the schedule and the premium STILL being on divsion and conference games, how can the NHL put more fire into cross conference games?

I'd like to hear some thoughts.

Can it be done somehow? Does anyone really care about that?

I certainly do. I'd hate to think that in the 82 game schedule, the 30 or so games against the other conference are mere 'throw away' or 'take it easier' type games.


This is what I think could be done:


Take a page out of the NFL book.

Yes, I know, its crazy...taking ANYTHING from the NFL way of doing things can seem somewhat insane, but what I mean is, the NFL only has 16 games per season to work with and they too want to focus on divisional and conference games, while still allowing teams to see others from the other conference.

Obviously, they do this by having teams from a given division rotate and play a certain other division from the other conference one year, play a different one the next, etc.


NFC East ends up playing the AFC West one year, then the AFC Central the next, and so on.


Could this work in the NHL?

I think so. Especially now with only 4 divisions in the entire NHL.


I will use the Atlantic Division as an example.

Say the Atlantic next year plays the same amount of games within the division and conference as they have been doing, but the remaining 30'ish games, they play ONLY against the Central Division of the West next year.

Meaning they will see teams like the Blues, Wild, Blackhawks, etc a bit more...with of course, NOT seeing any team from the Pacific (the Metro would be playing them that year)...but then next year, flipping, then the Atlantic plays the Pacific, while the Central plays the Metro.


Teams in each conference will not see one of the divisions at all one year (barring the SC Finals), but see more of the other teams in the other cross conference division a lot more...possibly leading to more intense games between the teams...then they swap next year and do it all again.


Thoughts or other ideas from the HF Boards crowd?

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