The NHL is contemplating changing its conference and divisional structure, going to four larger divisions rather than the six that currently exist.
It’s all part of the ongoing soap opera that began because teams in the West don’t get to see eastern stars like Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin often enough, if at all.
It’s misguided to change the whole map and schedules of a league for such a reason. Why? Because what do you then do five or 10 years from now when the star system has shifted conferences and other teams complain about not seeing certain players enough?
It’s absurd and misses the point. Which is this: sports leagues as a whole are way too big these days to allow for the only fair way — competitively and from a fans’ point of view — to do things and that is to offer a balanced schedule where everyone plays everyone an equal number of times. You’d simply have too many games as a consequence of trying to do that.
As it is, the concept of first overall is a myth, because you simply don’t really know — everyone is playing different schedules.
The real solution? Cut the number of teams down. Easier said than done, true. It’s not going to happen.
But it could if North American sports undertook a radical change and adopted the European football (soccer) model of promotion and relegation. Set things up in a Premier, First, Second and so on division format, in other words. With 30 NHL teams you could have three, 10-team sections where everyone could play everyone, with the top two teams in the lower divisions earning promotion and the bottom two being relegated each year.
It would be the most fair system for everyone. But North American sports culture isn’t built that way, it would be too radical a change and, well, it just isn’t going to happen.
So shut up and stop complaining.