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Molinari: When It Comes to Poor Decisions, This Has Few Rivals



Pittsburgh Penguins, Rickard Rakell

MONTREAL — The Pittsburgh Penguins’ rivalry with Philadelphia might be the most ferocious in the NHL.

Then again, perhaps it isn’t.

Not when Calgary and Edmonton share a slab of artificial ice. Or the New York Islanders and New York Rangers spend a little quality time together. Or Boston and Montreal have a collision in which the passions run as deep as the historical roots.

Oh, and then there’s St. Louis-Chicago. Tampa Bay-Florida. Toronto-Montreal. And more than a few others.

The NHL surely is aware of how emotions go up when rivals meet. As do elbows. And blood-pressure readings. And ticket sales. And TV ratings.

And the 2022-23 schedule released Wednesday would seem to remove any doubt about whether the league recognizes that rivalry games are just different from others?

How else to explain why there will be only the minimum number of games between so many rivals during the coming winter?

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Flyers, for example, will play just three times. (So will the Penguins and Washington, their second-most bitter rival.)

Strange coincidence? Yeah, maybe.

In fact, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Pittsburgh Hockey Now in an email that that’s precisely what it is.

“The schedule matrix is a set formula that cycles regularly over a number of years,” he wrote. “So, (the) number of matchups between particular teams is determined by the matrix, it’s not discretionary.”

Trouble is, that matrix would also have to account for the Rangers and Islanders playing just three times. Same with the Oilers and Flames. And the Canadiens and Bruins. And the Blues and Blackhawks. And Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Starting to detect a bit of a trend there?

And if a computer program really was responsible for a random cutback in rivalry games, wouldn’t it have been prudent for someone in the NHL to do a manual override to restore them?

Happily for Pittsburgh Penguins partisans who see red when they see orange, two of the three games against Philadelphia will be contested at PPG Paints Arena; conversely, two of their three meetings with the Capitals will be at Capital One Arena, halving the usual number of opportunities for postgame festivities on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery.

Not that anyone ever notices when, say, Alex Ovechkin comes to town.

Oh, well. At least the good people of Pittsburgh will get to bask in the warm glow of two visits from the likes of Detroit and New Jersey this winter. Get your tickets now, folks.

So, Daly’s explanation notwithstanding, why would the NHL seem to go out of its way to keep the number of rivalry games to the bare minimum in 2022-23?

Or, in a best-case scenario, simply accept the schedule spat out by a computer?

Great questions.

No obvious answers.

Self-loathing would be a pretty good explanation, but that doesn’t fit neatly into many successful business models.

Or perhaps league officials are concerned that the sport might become too popular, too quickly. That it will generate too much interest and revenue at a time when there might not be enough accountants available to keep track of the increased flow of money.

Sure, that’s completely illogical, and utterly detached from any wisp of reality.

Which means it just might be a perfect explanation for what the NHL is allowing to happen with rivalry games in 2022-23.

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1 month ago

If the NHL wasn’t so set about having at least 2 games for each team, they could have more divisional and conference games. Especially now that there are 8 teams in each division. How about…
Division 6 games/team – 42
Conference 3 games/team – 24
Other Conference 1 game/team – 16 games (alternate location every year)
Total 82

Reduce travel and turn up the heat for division rivalries

Ujn Hunter
1 month ago

Get offended much?

1 month ago

With the wild cards able to come out of just one division, they want to have the 3 cross over games between Atlantic and Metropolitan teams. No one want to hear this but the easy fix is add the two games and make the schedule 84 games. 16 x 2 = 32 plus 8 x 3 is 24 plus 7 x 4 = 28 that’s 84 games. Problem solved. Have 2 less preseason games so the total is no more total game.

1 month ago

go back to the 84 game schedule

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