Aside from being Christmas in January for "Sprint / Marathon" metaphor enthusiasts, the truncated and compressed schedule (made necessary by the work stoppage to which we can't wait to stop referring) has not been the worst thing hockey fans have ever seen.
For starters, the sense of urgency and importance attached to almost every single match-up is palpable. Those from the old school have been saying for years that there were too many regular season games and they may have been right along. Although it's a shame that the two conferences won't mingle during the regular season, couldn't that unfamiliarity add a level of mystique to the eventual Stanley Cup matchup? Shortened training camp probably cost some rookies another year in the minors but pre-season games are kind of a rip-off, aren't they? And sure, we lost this year's Winter Classic, but is anybody really sorry that there's no all star game (apologies to those in Columbus, of course) this year?
Everything will return to the way it was before, more or less (hello, various possible conference and division realignment scenarios), next season. But just for fun, we asked the question: If you could choose one thing that's resulted from or made necessary by the 48-game regular season for the NHL to retain in the future, what would it be?
Be sure to let us know what YOU think in the comments below!
Chad Schnarr, BoltProspects.com
In truth, I'm not for retaining any of the unique aspects of a shortened season. A normal training camp and preseason games give the organization the opportunity to see young players in a more competitive environment while getting them acclimated to the club's structure, system, and philosophies. That is invaluable. Where would Cory Conacher have been last year with a short camp and no preseason games?
The All-Star game is a fine skill showcase that while it is not competitive, is still entertaining (I'm looking at you, ProBowl).
I also think there is too much emphasis on division and conference games and I was excited for the proposed idea of less division/conference emphasis that was set to take place.
I like the games being more frequent, but what we'll see is more injuries as the year progresses compared to full seasons. Players need time for their bodies to recover from games and they're not going to get as much this season.
It's okay for one year, but in this case, normalcy is best.
Jason Haas, Sons of Andreychuk
I hope the NHL retains the back-to-back games in one city part of the schedule.
I know it is not present in the Lightning's schedule, but in March the Detroit Red Wings will play the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim in back to back games. Baseball's entire schedule is built on this system and, perhaps more relevantly, the AHL is a big user of this. It cuts down on travel costs as well as the wear and tear on players's bodies, resulting in a better product for the fans. One could argue that it reduces marketing opportunities (big names spread out during the season), but I see it the opposite way. Imagine if that first Wings/Ducks game is a chippy one that doesn't quite boil over. Chances are that second game is going to have a lot of fireworks and that appeals to all of us.
For me, the NHL should take a long hard look at retaining the shortened preseason. Shorter training camps and no preseason games would provide an aura of exciting unpredictability that would be attractive to the fans.
With a shortened preseason, the backup goalies and minor league call-ups become increasingly important due to injuries and workload early in the campaign.
The level of play would start off a little dicey. Some players would have to get in game shape while skating in regular season games that count, while others, who continue to skate during the summer may come out of the gate on fire. This may even help to increase parity in the league, something that is vital to the sports success.
Clare Austin, Raw Charge staff writer
I really like the emphasis on rivalries this season. Having the first day be a sort of "Rivalry Day" was kind of cool. While it's impossible to manufacture a rivalry where none exists (oh hai, Florida Panthers), it is possible to nurture them once they've started. Not sure how that would play out while trying to keep a balanced schedule, but I'd like to see them try it.
Kyle Alexander Abney, Lightning 101
I can't honestly think of anything from the 48-game season I could carry over back to the 82-game grind once that starts again in the fall. Sure, there has been a lot of exciting hockey, but that's mostly due to sloppy play and lots of power plays being handed out. Teams didn't have time to enact their systems/philosophies. The Lightning were a club that benefited from coaching and system continuity, so they'v enjoyed early season success. But some of the best things about the NHL are missing this year -- no Winter Classic, no out-of-conference talent making trips to other rinks, less time prior to the start of the season to evaluate rookies and bubble players. Whoever wins the Cup will have an asterisk next to their name. Some NHL hockey is better than none at all, but I'm ready for things to go back to the way they were, the way they're supposed to be.
John Fontana, Managing Editor, Raw Charge
A shorter season.
The standard 82-game schedule, while providing the opportunity to play most every team in the league, has one flaw that affects every team in the league in the same way: throwaway games that are unimportant and don't draw fans interests. Though, to be fair, that problem pops up in every league at certain times of the season...
The thing that's going on this season is that games matter, every game matters in the early going. Can you say that in October with a standard NHL season? Savvy fans and experts know that those games matter (early losses come bac k to haunt teams)... But the casual fan lacks interest early jockeying by teams.
Then there's the event-status of games this season - you only have 24 opportunities to see your team play at home... That's drawing more people in (and pushing the mute button on market judgements from the likes of Ken Campbell and others in the Canadian media). This isn't suggesting a season should be all of 48 games, but less is more in hyping the product.
A shorter season may cut down on inter-conference games, but it doesn't have to outright stop inter-conference play. Do what the NFL and MLB do with a rotating schedule and play a series with a specific division in the other conference each season.
The last point I'll make is that fewer games, paced properly, could and should lead to better hockey as fewer games leads to more recovery time for banged up and injured players.
Cassie McClellan, Assistant Managing Editor, Raw Charge
It appears that some teams really do need preseason games, as a few are struggling right now to pull things together. And while conference and division games are important, I think it's nice to have some interconference play - if, for no other reason, than to get a chance to see the players from the other conference. About the only thing I'd like to carry forward is the shortened season itself.
82 games, for me, is just too long. I think 60 games would definitely be better. I typically get burned out around the All-Star Game, and don't really have a serious interest again until March when the playoff runs are heating up. I realize that it will never happen, but it's a nice idea, anyways.
Patti McDonald, Raw Charge staff writer
In this abbreviated NHL season, it's obvious that the week-long training camp was insufficient. Everyone knows that. Some players are struggling already, but we are only six or seven games in. Many aspects of the 2012-2013 season have thrown players, fans, and everyone off. However, there is a positive to all this. This season, there will not be an All Star game. I have always been a proponent for removing the All Star game from the NHL. Look at it from a coaches standpoint. Players are involved in a pointless game that could possibly put one of their most talented players at risk of sustaining an injury. The All-Star game usually falls in January or February, right before the playoff push. There haven't been many players that have been injured during recent All-Star games but he possibility is still there. Last season, Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock requested that Henrik Zetterberg not play in the All-Star game. Zetterberg was one of the most voted for players on the ballot that season. It might have disappointed fans that he didn't play in the game but this has to be looked at from a more serious standpoint. I think more fans would be disappointed if their favorite payer got injured in an All-Star game more than if that player sat the game out.