NBC Sports released its 2017-18 NHL schedule on Monday, trumpeting it as “the most diverse NHL schedule ever” in its inclusion of Canadian teams.
This is completely accurate, given how low the bar was set for “diversity” for NBC’s hockey schedule. It’s like the producers of FRIENDS declaring that any episode featuring Aisha Tyler was “the most diverse episode of FRIENDS ever!” Technically true.
“We’re proud to offer our most diverse NHL schedule ever to fans across the country,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer President of Production, NBC Sports. “From classic rivalries and historic franchises, to young stars such as Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, a hockey-crazed market in Nashville, and a new franchise in Vegas, this schedule represents our commitment to present the NHL’s diverse and emerging stars, teams, and stories.”
As is tradition here at Puck Daddy, we now present the Winners and Losers of the 2017-18 NBC Sports NHL Schedule. You can read last year’s edition here.
WINNER: Canadian Teams
The ratings for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs apparently convinced NBC Sports overlords that, yes, a Canadian team can actually draw decent numbers, provided it has a star player and is placed in a compelling matchup against an American team that can drive a national rating.
So the Toronto Maple Leafs go from one game last season to three this season, including the Stadium Series game vs. the Washington Capitals at the Naval Academy. Their other two games? Buffalo and Chicago.
The Edmonton Oilers are on three times after being shutout on last season’s initial schedule, facing Nashville, San Jose and Los Angeles.
Montreal’s games doubled from four last season to eight this season. Ottawa hasn’t had a regular-season game on NBCSN for at least the last three seasons, and gets one via the NHL100 Classic outdoor game this December vs. the Habs.
Alas, Calgary and Winnipeg – despite Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine – don’t have games on the schedule. Vancouver, as per usual, doesn’t either. But four out of seven ain’t bad! That’s the majority of Canadian teams!
LOSER: Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, and thus American hockey fans
For some reason, NBC thinks it deserves a cookie for giving us six games of McDavid and Matthews, or one more than an expansion team (more on that in a bit).
Could you imagine another sport’s primary rights-holder being so slavishly dedicated to squeezing out every ounce of local ratings it could that it would restrict the second-best player in the world to just three games? Like if the Vancouver Grizzlies were still around and Russell Westbrook played there and TNT was like, ‘nope, it’s a Canadian team … here’s an 15th Bulls game instead?’
Not to mention how NBC is also only giving us three games of the best American-born center to hit the NHL in nearly 30 years, who also plays for an Original Six team.
But this is still a problem with the NHL as a whole on U.S. television: a complete lack of confidence in the product itself to draw in casual fans, which leads to overreliance on major markets. Which, as the dog sprints after its own tail, ends up hurting the product even more because we miss out on the artistry of players like McDavid and Matthews in the U.S. while being oversaturated by teams like the Flyers and Bruins.
WINNER: Nashville Predators
What a difference a year makes. The Predators showed they could draw eyeballs during their run to the Stanley Cup Final; and as a result, this Stanley Cup contender went from two games last season to seven on this season’s schedule. To the surprise of no one who felt the party vibe of games in Nashville last postseason, five of the seven are at home.
LOSER: Colorado Avalanche
The worst team in hockey last season by any metric, the Avalanche went from nine games on NBC’s schedules in 2016-17 to just one appearance this season: March 13 at the Minnesota Wild. Ouch.
WINNER: Philadelphia Flyers
We invite all of you Comcast conspiracy theorists to opine on this glorious fact: That the Flyers have more games on the NBC mothership any other team this season, despite not playing in an outdoor game and not having been a playoff team last season.
Overall, they have as many games on NBC and NBCSN as do the defending two-time Stanley Cup champion Penguins. (16)
LOSER: Rivals of the Rangers
Having the first overall pick in the NHL Draft didn’t move the needle, as the New Jersey Devils are on the NBC/SN schedules just one time for the third straight season: Oct. 17 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Perhaps John Tavares can help get a new arena built, because apparently he can’t help the New York Islanders maintain TV appearances. The Isles went from six games last season to just one game this season on NBCSN: Jan. 15 at Montreal.
Not even a Rangers or Flyers game for either of them. Sad!
WINNER: Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks lead all clubs with 17 total appearances on NBC and NBCSN, followed by the Penguins and Flyers with 16, and the Capitals, Red Wings, and Bruins with 15 appearances apiece.
LOSER: Columbus Blue Jackets
That 108-point season couldn’t get the Blue Jackets more games than they had last season, which was one game. The Jackets face Buffalo on Oct. 25, i.e. not even a game against their actual rival the Penguins on Rivalry Night.
WINNER: Western Conference
At least 53 of NBC and NBCSN’s 99 telecasts will feature at least one Western Conference team. Some of them are actually from outside of Chicago.
LOSER: Dallas Stars
Arguably the NHL off-season’s biggest mover and shaker – adding Ken Hitchcock, Ben Bishop, Martin Hanzal, Mark Methot and Alex Radulov – the Stars are on twice vs. four times last season.
WINNER: Vegas Golden Knights
The NHL’s newest team has more appearances (5) than 16 other NHL teams. Inexplicably, NBCSN is covering more Golden Knights games on the road (3) than on the Strip (2).
LOSER: The entire concept of rivalries
Look, we make the same lament every season about NBC’s Wednesday Night Rivalry gimmick. It’s a concept that makes total sense from a marketing perspective, as rivalries are the lifeblood of the NHL. Who among us isn’t giving the Penguins vs. Capitals or the Blues and Blackhawks a glance, right?
It’s just that they need one game every week to make the gimmick work and, well … it doesn’t work:
We all ridicule Wednesday Night Rivalry every season for stretching the concept of rivalry to its absolute breaking point of absurdity. Which really, in our opinion, does a disservice to the storied blood-feud between the Penguins and Blues.
On what planet is Buffalo vs. Columbus a rivalry? Or the Lightning and the Bruins? What, are they going to shoot a backstage angle with Phil Esposito like it’s Monday Night RAW?
Here’s the full breakdown of appearances. The number in parentheses is last season’s total.
Anaheim Ducks: 4 (2)
Arizona Coyotes: 1 (1)
Calgary Flames: 0 (0)
Edmonton Oilers: 3 (0)
Vegas Golden Knights: 5 (DNP)
Los Angeles Kings: 12 (8)
San Jose Sharks: 6 (11)
Vancouver Canucks: (0) 0
Chicago Blackhawks: 17 (21)
Colorado Avalanche: 1 (9)
Dallas Stars: 2 (4)
Minnesota Wild: 12 (12)
Nashville Predators: 7 (2)
St. Louis Blues: 10 (12)
Winnipeg Jets: 0 (0)
Boston Bruins: 15 (17)
Buffalo Sabres: 7 (8)
Detroit Red Wings: 12 (13)
Florida Panthers: 1 (1)
Montreal Canadiens: 8 (4)
Ottawa Senators: 1 (0)
Tampa Bay Lightning: 6 (7)
Toronto Maple Leafs: 3 (1)
Carolina Hurricanes: 1 (1)
Columbus Blue Jackets: 1 (1)
New Jersey Devils: 1 (1)
New York Islanders: 1 (6)
New York Rangers: 14 (15)
Philadelphia Flyers: 16 (20)
Pittsburgh Penguins: 16 (15)
Washington Capitals: 15 (14)
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