A new/old schedule?

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

It has taken him only until his third NHL season -- 186 regular-season games will be in the books barring the unforeseen -- but Sid the Kid next week finally will visit Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver for the first time.

In the interim, Sidney Crosby was able to become the youngest player to record 100 points, reach 200 points, win the Art Ross, Lester Pearson and Hart trophies and be named a captain. But the young man couldn't go west.

Good news is, for the fans, it won't take quite so long for the next visit.

Crosby will visit Western Canada for the first time as a Pittsburgh Penguin -- a major quirk and failing of the current NHL scheduling format -- just days after the league is expected to at least partially fix the problem when the board of governors gather today and tomorrow in Pebble Beach, Calif.

The current schedule matrix, which involves teams playing teams in their division eight times, teams in their conference four times, and 10 out-of-conference games, was instituted coming out of the lockout to control travel costs and increase rivalries. It will be put to rest at the end of this season, or that is the expected plan.

Not all teams agree with that, either, with most of the dissenters based in the East, where there is limited exhaustive travel and an appetite for eight division games because, in some places, it actually does work.

Others will term it a merciful conclusion -- the notion of seeing some teams eight times absolutely eye-glazing.

It is believed commissioner Gary Bettman has gathered enough support to revert to the pre-lockout matrix, which would mean: Six games against the four division rivals (24 total); four games against conference rivals (40 total); one game against each team in the other conference (15 total); plus three wild-card games.

MORE EAST-WEST

The Canadian teams likely would play each other with those extra games, which is a bonus. You may have noticed that with the current schedule, this is the first time the three Western Canadian teams and the three Eastern Canadian teams have not met, and will not meet. And it is why Detroit will be part of Hockey Day in Canada on Feb. 9.

In the new/old format, it means that every team will play each other at least once and the gap betweens visits for the likes of Crosby or Alex Ovechkin will be two years, not three.

The bottom line is it would be best to play every team home and away. Forgetting some team's travel concerns, it makes no sense that some great old rivalries have been diminished because of conference placement. It makes no sense that a game struggling to build a fan base, especially south of the border, can't get its stars around the league every year at least once. It may make cents, but not sense.

It seems, however, there will be some change next season. Not enough, but better than nothing. And f0or those in Western Canada, enjoy the Crosby show because it will be a while before it returns ... just not as long.


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