I have a radical coaching idea: forfeit the first 20 games of the season, don't start camp until October. Huh??? How will we make the playoffs? It doesn't matter! 82 games is simply too many games. These guys are dead by March. The common fan does not have the stomach to watch regular season hockey before Easter, much less Christmas. As for the players, the physical toll is blatantly obvious, but look at the mental toll. The players are undeniably disinterested at multiple points throughout the regular season. I don't blame them. So much of the regular season is meaningless, the length of the regular season depletes the gravity of the individual games. If you watch all 82 regular season games for a given team, you can easily identify 20 games in which they should've stayed home and played with themselves. The NHL regular season should determine the teams worthy to compete in the postseason. It should not determine the team that best handles the grueling physical toll of an ironman season. So, why not forfeit the first 20 games? Your team will be fresh and ready to go. I can imagine no better way to create urgency than to begin buried in last place with 62 games left to play. Hungry is the best way to play hockey, it's the only way to play hockey. The NHL postseason shouldn't be vastly more interesting than the regular season, but it is. Bagging games 1-20 will create a playoff atmosphere immediately. If your team can't put together enough points to get into the easy-entry NHL playoffs in 62 games, they probably wouldn't with 82 games either. The Philadelphia Flyers most recent early departure from the Playoffs is the motivation for this post.
We've seen this movie before. The Flyers play like champions through Christmas despite spotty goaltending, play strong through the winter, and they simply faulter in the playoffs. That 7-0 loss to the Rangers in February was the beginning of the end. I started writing this post late last night, got about halfway through and went to sleep. I had a vivid dream that I met face to face with chairman Ed Snider to beg him to get the Flyers a real goalie. The Flyers are the perpetual Atlanta Braves of hockey. The fact is they haven't had a goalie since Pelle Lindberg, and that essentially means they haven't had a goalie since Bernie Parent. That's a long time for a franchise that's considered one of the best in the league. They aren't a team built on futility, they've come tantalizingly close at times. But in the end, excuses are like assholes...you know the rest.
I realize my forfeit 20 games theory is completely unrealistic and out of the question, but look at the Flyers in 2010. They couldn't skate in a straight line early on, then turned it on and found themselves in the Cup final. All the while they had spotty goaltending. I want so badly for hockey to return to it's glory from the 90's. But fantasy football, NFL draft coverage, lacrosse, ultimate fighting, and trash TV seem to have distracted the American public. Dear Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, stop getting hurt. Dear Washington Capitols, stop not reaching the conference finals, the NHL needs Ovi in the spotlight. Dear Flyers, get a goalie. At least consider throwing the first 20 games, there's no award for being in first place at Christmas.