29 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Three NHL Issues on which I am conservative

This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  (And we have another lockout to prove it.)

This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Three NHL Issues on which I am conservative.

In the politics of politics, everyone likes to frame the words liberal and conservative into definitions that suit themselves best.  For my purpose in this piece, I am defining a belief as conservative if it represents something thin the NHL that I would not like to change, or the rejection of a major change in the league.

1      Standings/Shootout
This is probably the single change of the past decade the NHL has made that I hate the most.  And there are so many things to hate about it. 
First thing to hate, the introduction of the shootout following the last lockout ushered in an era in which the actual league standings, which determine actual playoff teams, were actually going to reward the winner of a tie-breaking contest that is not actually much like hockey.
Second thing to hate, the idea that the two points for a win and one point for forcing overtime motivates implicit collusion.  It’s hard to say if the statistics prove collusion.  In the first four seasons of this system, there were 281, 281, 272, and 282 games that went to overtime or a shootout in ’05-06, ’06-07, ’07-08, ’08-09, respectively.  In the three following season, there were 307, 297, and 300 overtime or shootout games in ’09-10, ’10-11, and ’11-12, respectively.  It’s hard to say if the jump in the past three seasons represents teams figuring out it’s logical to play not to lose.
Actual numbers aside, the appearance itself that it’s logical for teams to collude would lead to dead 3rd periods I think is problematic.  I could do a whole post on alternative standings, but suffice to say, just about any system I’ve seen out there is better than the one in place now.

      Realignment and Playoffs
I would define my position as conservative on this issue because I favor a return to a four division setup.  (Though I would say I’m ambivalent about naming the divisions and conferences after important names in hockey as was done before 1993.)  I think the plan that the board of governors passed this year would have fixed a lot of what is wrong with the current setup.  I have done many other posts on this if you’re interested in specifics.  To summarize, particularly in the Western Conference, there needs to be a more geographic division, and one that would place Minnesota with more traditional rivals.  And keeping playoff matchups within a division (at least for one round) again would only bolster rivalries in all division games.

I am aware that my support of the continued place of fighting in the NHL is as hockey-politically incorrect as it gets right now.  There is still something about the notion that players can hold each other accountable where officials fail that seems logical to me.  The further the NHL gets from this idea, the more cheap shots that the league’s rats are going to get away with.

Head-shots are a very sensitive subject right now, and that is why fighting is in the cross-hairs.  However, I still like to think fighting is a deterrent to dirty hits during full speed play, but I understand this view is finding its way to the minority.  But until the NHL gets its act together on headshots, I’ll hope there’s still a place for it in the league.

Well I've set the definition of three beliefs on which I believe I am conservative.  There will be another piece tommorow, but in the interim State of Hockey, what say you?

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