Going by network, let’s take a look.
Right: Games, Games, Games – Call it superserving, call it playing like Scott Gomez in a contract year, but hockey fans in the United States are big winners today, especially if you live in a non-hockey market. Say you live in somewhere with no local team, you can now watch almost as many games as someone who lives in a market with a team, sometimes more based on that team’s local network scheduling. Even if you do have a team, this is a great thing. More chances to follow more teams means that you’re just a little bit more likely to stick around when your team is eliminated in the post-season. That’s what VERSUS and the NHL need to do.
Wrong: Nine Appearances By the Minnesota Wild – I’m fine with six teams in a 30-team league having a total of 66 appearances. Those teams deserve to have the limit because they are the clubs that move the needle locally and nationally. Somehow, though, I am unable to wrap my head around the Wild getting on VERSUS nine times. Their local ratings dropped last year, and they don’t appear to have much resembling a playoff contender this year, so there’s no reason to think they’ll bounce back. They also don’t have much of a profile nationally. At least the Sabres, through some playoff appearance, have developed a bit of familiarity. A team like Colorado or Los Angeles deserves these games more.
Right: The Return of the Kings – While they probably could’ve stood to make a few more appearances on the schedule, six LA Kings is more than VERSUS has ever shown, and it’s important that the league’s tentpole west coast franchise get itself some national recognition and continue to develop as a contender. Having a team like LA compete and get some buzz is as important as reviving the Hawks in the midwest. There’s a ton of people ready to join a bandwagon there, just like the Dodgers folks who got swept up in Mannywood mania.
Wrong: A Little Too Heavy on the Bonus Games – Is it just me, or wouldn’t you have liked to see VERSUS use more original productions on the added games? Especially with an event like the Heritage Classic. I know, the CBC probably would run circles around VERSUS at covering this, but I’d still like to see VERSUS take a shot at it. It’s disappointing that they can’t take a shot at upping their originally produced games, too.
Right and Wrong: More Studio Content – Yes, it’s great that there’ll be more hockey talk, but I just can’t get excited by the notion of more Bill Patrick with Jonesy and Engblom on my TV. Let’s hope the studio show is more welcome to the rotating cast of analysts we saw towards the end of last season and into the playoffs. I hear Aaron Ward and Billy Jaffe are available!
Right: Hockey Day in America Regional Coverage – While NBC Sports told Puck the Media that more details about the network’s coverage would “come at a later date,” I can’t help but be thrilled at the idea of regional coverage returning, at worst, as an experiment. The NHL’s spent three years with a game of the week format, and you have to wonder if maybe another test of putting six big markets all in on one day can’t move the needle closer to a 1.5, or maybe a 2.0. Ignoring the west coast completely on that day isn’t thrilling, but you can only ask for so much.
Wrong: Pathetic Flex Options – Islanders/Buffalo and Devils/Florida vs. Philadelphia/Chicago? Really? Come on, NBC. New Jersey/Columbus vs. Rangers/Pittsburgh? St. Louis/Tampa Bay vs. Pens/Caps? Why even bother with the notion of a flex schedule if you aren’t at least going to try once in awhile. There are very few weeks where there are legitimate options to choose from, and it leaves the NHL and NBC hanging high and dry in case, say, Chicago or Pittsburgh lose their big-name attraction stars to injury.