1. Realignment. I wouldn't even have my jacket off or feet up on Gary Bettman's desk before this was a done deal. Here's how the new divisions would look:
- Wales Conference, Adams Division: BOS, BUF, MTL, NJD, NYI, NYR, OTT, TOR
- Wales Conference, Patrick Division: ATL, CAR, FLA, PHI, PIT, TBL, WSH
- Campbell Conference, Norris Division: CHI, CLM, COL, DET, MIN, NSH, STL
- Campbell Conference, Smythe Division: ANA, CGY, DAL, EDM, LAK, PHX, SJS, VAN
2. All games are created equal. We talked about this a couple of years ago, but it has never made any sense to me (and in a playoff race, it can be damn near rage-inducing) why some games are worth two points and others are worth three. I've never been a fan of the "loser point," and I never really liked four-on-four overtime (unless you mandate that each team play with one lanky guy, two average guys and one fat guy), but the real problem is that different games yield different point allotments in the standings. Here's the fix - extend OT to ten minutes (preferably five-on-five) and then have your shootout if you must. A team that wins in regulation or OT gets three points in the standings, a team that loses in regulation or OT gets nothing and likes it, and a team that wins in a shootout gets two points while the shootout loser gets one. The rationale behind this scheme, as I wrote back then, is 1) all games should yield the same number of points in the standings, 2) teams should not be rewarded for losing the hockey portion of a hockey game (hence three points even for an overtime win and no points for an overtime loss), and 3) if a less-talented team can play a superior squad even for 70 minutes, they should be rewarded (minimally) for that, even if they can't hang once the game turns into a skills competition.
3. Unreleasable minors. This is the most radical of my proposals (and I don't claim it to be an original idea, I'm just not sure where I heard it first to give credit) - every two minute penalty is served for a full two minutes, even if the offending team is scored upon. This accomplishes the dual goals of increasing scoring and increasing the deterrent effect of minor penalties, which should make for better play five-on-five. Unfortunately, it could lead to refs swallowing their whistles even more often late in tight games, but since Change #3b is to can and replace any official demonstrably calling games differently based upon score and game time, I'm confident this problem can be avoided.
4. Video game roster czars. Before licensing its teams, logos, players, etc. to EA Sports and 2K Sports, the NHL should stipulate that each company has resources dedicated to providing online updates for its NHL video games every single day. Hire one $25,000 geek per company who will pore over the previous days transactions and game data and update rosters, line combinations, and, when necessary, skill ratings (Alex Ovechkin started last season with a 91 rating in NHL 08... on the 100-point scale, by February he should have been at least 217). When I want to download the latest rosters, I want them to be so fresh you've got to smack 'em. Oh, and while we're at it, delete the Gary Thorne "What a mustard shot!" soundbite - it sounds like something you'd hear in one of those food fetish movies Wyshynski is so fond of.
5. Ban "The Hockey Song." I despise "The Hockey Song," but know that some folks really enjoy it, and I don't want to deprive them of joy, so I'll make a compromise - ban playing "The Hockey Song" when the home team is losing. Or tied. Or up just one goal. Look, with a few minutes left in a close game, I want to hear something that'll pump me and the rest of the crowd up - quite simply, I want to unleash the fury. I don't want to hear some Canadian hayseed's ode to the game. And if my team's losing? It ain't such a good ol' hockey game.
Those are my five, let's hear some of yours. Winner gets an OFB mug.