When the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames play each other on December 27, it’ll be the third and final Battle of Alberta match scheduled for the 2022-23 NHL regular season.
But according to Sportico, “as soon as next season, teams like Edmonton and Calgary could play as many as eight games against each other” as the NHL considers adding more rivalry games to the schedule.
The report from Sportico indicates that NHL owners and executives have discussed the idea of having teams play against geographical rivals more often. Beyond adding more marquee Edmonton vs. Calgary, Toronto vs. Montreal, Washington vs. Pittsburgh, etc games to the schedule, this idea is attractive to teams because it reduces the amount of travel that they have to do in a given season.
As of right now, the NHL schedule sees each team face everybody within their conference three or four times and each team plays one game at home and one game on the road against each team from the other conference.
During the 2021 season which was altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 31 NHL teams were sorted into four divisions and they only played each other exclusively until the playoffs in the spring. The Oilers played 10 games against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks and nine games against the other four Canadian teams that season.
What could happen here is that we see each team play one home game and one road game against non-division opponents and then the rest of their games would be played within the division. For the Oilers, that would mean 48 games against the Atlantic, Metro, and Central Divisions, and then 34 games against the Pacific Division. Among those 34 games against the Pacific, the Oilers could hypothetically play six “rivalry games” against both the Flames and Canucks and then four or five against the remaining five teams in the division.
It’s interesting that the NHL is reportedly considering such a change to their schedule, as Major League Baseball is doing the opposite in 2023 with its new “balanced schedule.”
MLB teams will now play 52 games in total against division rivals, a decrease from the previous format, which saw teams play nearly half of their 162 games against teams from within the division. Also, rather than playing a handful of interleague games against one division from the other league, each team will now play 46 interleague games and will face all other 29 teams in the Majors at some point during the season.
“This new format creates more consistent opponent matchups as clubs compete for Postseason berths, particularly in the recently expanded wild card round,” MLB chief operations & strategy officer Chris Marinak said in a press release
. “Additionally, this fan-friendly format provides fans with the opportunity to see more opponent matchups, with a particular focus on dramatically expanding our most exciting Interleague matchups, and offers more national exposure to the star players throughout our game.”
What say you, Nation? Do you like the NHL schedule as it is now? Or do you think it should be altered?
Personally, I’m of two minds on this. It’s absurd that there are only three Battle of Alberta games this season considering how great this rivalry has been over the past few years. But that said, I’ve also watched the Blue Jays go up against the Tampa Bay Rays so many times in my life that it’s become more repetitive than an actual rivalry. It’s fun to promote rivalries, but too many head-to-heads against the same team can ruin the novelty and excitement of playing them.