It's time for another friendly game of Fact or Fiction. In this edition, we'll focus on some interesting league matters. Do we have all the answers? Well, it's a fact we don't, but that won't stop us from taking a stab at these intriguing questions.
The NHL will eventually expand to Las Vegas
Fact. Within the next five years, the league will expand to two new cities, and you can bet Las Vegas will be one of them. Hollywood mogul Jerry Bruckheimer, a big-time hockey fan, is part of a group that wants to land a team in Vegas. To do so, it will have to build a suitable arena and convince local officials to agree to take the team's games off the gambling board. The group should be successful on both fronts. The addition of Vegas and another preferably Western big-market city (Seattle?) will allow the league to realign geographically. Like it or not, get ready for the "Original 32."
The shootout has been bad for the NHL
Fiction. While I've grown tired of the shooter-goalie showdowns, the league's tiebreaking gimmick remains a huge hit with fans. Night after night, crowds around the league rise to their feet for the shootout, and the one-on-one confrontations have created made-for-TV highlights for everyone from ESPN to YouTube. My personal feelings aside, the shootout has been good for the league.
The NHL has done a good job with its supplementary discipline
Fiction. It remains much too inconsistent, and it's time repeat offenders face an escalating scale of punishment for their acts. Perhaps, if Chris Simon had received something worse than three two-game suspensions for separate incidents (kneeing, elbowing and crosschecking) in the past six years, he might have thought twice before chopping Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg across the face with his stick. When a player doesn't get the hint, he clearly needs a stronger message. A stiffer suspension for each subsequent offense would help send that message.
The NHL isn't worried about the internal battle at the NHLPA
Fiction. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commish Bill Daly have enjoyed a very cordial relationship with soon-to-be-exiting NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin. That cozy relationship has made life a little easier for everyone at the league office. Now, they'll have to sit back and watch while the union goes through a lengthy process to hire a new leader. Will it choose an adversarial type, like former chief Bob Goodenow, or will the union opt for someone who'll maintain Saskin's go-along-to-get-along attitude? Bettman & Co. will be watching, closely.
The NHL's point system needs to be changed
Fact. Yes, under the current system, we have some good playoff races, but that same system makes it tougher for teams to make up ground in the postseason chase. Personally, I'm ready to make it easy for everyone. If you win, whether it's in overtime or via a shootout, you get two points. If you lose, you get nothing. In sports, you shouldn't ever be rewarded for losing, right?