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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

How the NHL can incorporate more Canadian team matchups into next season’s schedule

To quote Bono, “the world needs more Canadas.”

This unprecedented season has brought many new things into the NHL. Helmet ads, a new deal with ESPN and new divisions, to name a few.

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Recently, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (booo) has said that next season the NHL would return to the previous division realignment, barring any setbacks regarding covid 19, even though some Canadian teams would prefer to keep the new division around.

This means a one-off Canadian division.

So it begs to ask the question: should the NHL go off the Canadian division experiment and set up a new division realignment in the future? If that’s the case, the closest team for the Vancouver Canucks would be the Calgary Flames. This wouldn’t be anything new for the Canucks, who have never had a rival within a three-hour drive.

In their 50 plus history, the Canucks have never had a true geographical rival.

The Seattle Kraken will hit the ice in the 2021-22 NHL campaign, meaning starting next season, the Canucks will finally have an easier time managing travel. Not only will it be easier for the players, but fans can finally take a day trip to watch their favourite team on the road and still sleep in their own bed.

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Some aspects of the current schedule make sense and should stick around for the foreseeable future, such as mini-series, but that will only work with the teams in your division. Who wouldn’t want to have seven days in Southern California and play against Los Angles and Anaheim? Less travel could do wonders for the team that historically has dealt with a brutal travel schedule.

Going old school

The big suits at Rogers and Sportsnet would certainly be ecstatic to have an all-Canadian division even though all games won’t be against Canadian teams. More games against Canadian teams equals better ratings.

The NHL could take a page out of their old book if they go back to the old divisions and play against each division except for one like a few years ago, but that would mean not having guys like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Nathan MacKinnon come to Rogers Arena every season, which would not be good for the fans.

The NHL should continue to showcase its stars in all markets and have every team play home and away against each other.

So can the NHL make both higher executives and those who prefer the old divisions happy?

Best of both worlds 

Adding more games against Canadian teams would be ideal.

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In an 82 game schedule, the NHL could find a way to add more games against Canadian teams, especially against the eastern teams. Six out of the seven teams are in a division that already features two other Canadian teams; the outlier being the Winnipeg Jets who the league would need to get creative with in order to have them match up against more Canadian teams.

However, as for those six Canadian teams who have other Canadian teams in their divisions, the NHL could propose a schedule of 28 games against each team in its division and play every other U.S team home and away for a total of 66 games.

Which leaves 16 games left.

For the Canucks, four games are against the Flames and Edmonton Oilers since they’re in the division but 16 against the other Canadian teams. Four against the Leafs, four against the Canadiens, four against the Senators and four against the Jets.

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This schedule allows every team to come to Rogers Arena plus one additional game against other Canadian teams. For travel purposes, the NHL could have the mini set like this season where Toronto comes into town and plays the two games and then leaves.

It was nice to have a one-off Canadian division in an unpredictable time, but having the divisions go back to their pre-COVID form with some small tweaks is the best solution.

Let’s hear what you think. Should the NHL keep the Canadian division? Or should they make changes going forward?