| Carving a bird
One bird down
By Ken Smyth
Give the Sharks some credit, after a four game
road trip lacking in style points they return to the Tank and win 6-1, coming
down on the Philadelphia Flyers like a shoe on a bug. Two goals on the board in
the first five minutes; before the opposition's first shot on Vesa Toskala.
First bird before Thanksgiving successfully plucked and roasted. Now for the
Coach Ron Wilson was openly critical of his team for some pretty sloppy habits
of late. Can't say I blame him. Winning coaches often get fired because their
team isn't playing quite as good as the management thinks it should; call it
the Steinbrenner Syndrome. But the Sharks came out strong Saturday night, with
six goals from six people and four lines contributing. Vesa Toskala handled
only 18 shots but kept the Flyers face in the sand with some spectacular saves
off Geoff Sanderson and Derien Hatcher in the first period. Some credit to the
scouting staff too, or maybe Tivo, for way the Sharks capitalized on goaltender
Robert Esche on short side shots. A bit sloppy in the third period, but by then
it was settles except for who got the drumsticks.
They'll need a good effort like this against the Ducks Tuesday- it's the two
baddest boys on the coast meeting in the renamed Pond. It's now the Honda
Center; sorry, I can't picture Teemu in a Civic. Luckily the Ducks slapped the
Coyotes around (doesn't everybody?) to break their two-game slide. Hope they
feel all good about themselves, skip practice and spend the day at the beach,
its almost 90 in So Cal. Game on.
More from Saturday
As for the Flyer fanatics, dozens of whom were present in their Halloween-ey
gear, they came to rag on us as usual but were shut down pretty quick by the
score. These weren't posers or wannabe east coasters out there; most of those
Flyer shirts carried names of recent past glory: Renberg, LeClair, Primeau.
Give them some credit, too.
Most of them stuck it out quietly till near the end, though a group near
Visiting Goalies' stool got a bit testy when SJ Sharkie came by to mock them in
the third period.
John Stevens was given a two-year contract to coach the Flyers, removing the
"acting" from his title. Which suggests that management sees the awful start
this season as an aberraton, not a sign that the team needs complete overhaul.
In turn that suggests they saw the games in LA and Anaheim, but skipped San
Inter division schedule - or lack of a plan
Okay, a few words about the NHL schedule formula: it sucks. Granted that the
eastern teams are likeing the idea seeing the Sharks, Kings, Canucks, etc only
in glacial epochs ending in "R". Granted too that the NHL brass likes having
the Flyers, Rangers, Devils etc. play each other a lot in a division separated
by an hour flight, including security; and that Hockey Night in Canada can show
a Montreal/Toronto game three out of four Saturdays. It still sucks.
This scheduling scheme was devised as a way to help teams save on travel
expenses. That crutch is no longer needed. The Canadian dollar is up against
the US dollar like almost every currency not printed on Charmin. Attendance is
good as fans forgot the labor dispute almost immediately and the salary cap is
Meanwhile, Western fans can't get a good look at stars like Ovechkin, Crosby,
Kovalchuk, etc. not to mention the Leafs, Canadiens, Ragers, etc. Cities in the
Hockey Homeland up north are especially miffed about that. It's also clear that
the Western Conference travel schedule puts their teams at a competitive
disadvantage in May and June during the playoffs, and those airline miles don't
trade for Stanley Cup rings. Maybe that falls on deaf ears in Eastern
Conference, but its bad for the gameas a whole.
So here's my plan, thought up during an eleven-hour Singapore Airlines odyssey.
Right now the teams play one division in the other conference at home, another
on the road and the third not at all, in rotation. That makes ten games. Why
not make it twenty games, playing one division on the road only, one at home
only, one at home and on the road? That way every team gets to play every other
The ten added inter-conference games on a teams schedule get taken out of the
intra conference schedule. Instead of playing each team in the other divisions
of the coference four times, make it three and alternate which division gets
the extra home game against a given one.
For example- the Pacific Divison teams would play every team in the Northwest
and Central division three times in a season. One season they would play the
Central teams two home and one on the road and the Northwest one home and two
on the road. Next season it would reverse with the Pacific playing Central one
home two road and Northwest two home and one road.
This wouldn't hurt travel schedules much for the Western Conference, but the
East would need to buck it up and sit on a plane a bit more. It would let every
NHL team play every other every season. It preserves the divisional rivalries,
keeping things a bit nasty. My two cents, and I'll take it in Canadian even
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