Original Six era not worth reliving
We need to see more Original Six teams play the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. There are too many games against division foes and not enough against the other teams. The new way of scheduling in the NHL is wrong.
No. Not really.
I think that the Original Six ideal has morphed into something that it never was, namely the heyday of the NHL. The Original Six was an era in which the NHL was popular in Detroit, Chicago, New York and Boston. That's the map for American based fandom for the NHL. Believe it or not, the NHL is more popular nationally now that it ever was during the Original Six era.
Let's look at the Original Six without the rose-colored glasses:
-- It wasn't original. At least not as far as number of teams or teams themselves in the NHL. The league existed for 25 years before the Brooklyn Americans -- yes, the Brooklyn Americans -- dropped out to leave the NHL with the Original Six. The league has lasted for 41 seasons since the Original Six era ended. The Original Six era lasted just 25 seasons. You want original? Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. That's the original NHL.
-- The Original Six era was an extremely polarized circuit in terms of success. Detroit, Montreal and Toronto were good. Boston, New York and Chicago were not. (Maybe that's why we pine for those days in Detroit. Then again, the Red Wings are the NHL's royalty right now.) In those 25 Original Six seasons, Montreal (10), Toronto (nine) and Detroit (five) won 24 Stanley Cups. Only Chicago (1961) broke the big three's hold on the title. Montreal, Detroit and Toronto missed the playoffs a combined eight times in those 25 years. Boston, Chicago and New York missed the playoffs 42 times. Maybe it should have been called the Half Good/Half Bad era of the NHL.
-- The Original Six era was repetitive. Very very very very very repetitive. Detroit fans argue that they see Nashville too many times (eight in each of the past three seasons and six this season), Columbus too many times, St. Louis too many times. Well, the Original Six was all about seeing teams too many times.
And come playoff time in the Original Six, the Red Wings were usually playing either Montreal or Toronto. In their 38 Original Six era playoff series, the Red Wings played the two Canadian franchises 24 times. From 1948-61, the Red Wings played 16 of 19 playoff series against either Montreal or Toronto.
The Red Wings played every team in the old NHL 14 times per season. That makes eight games a year seem like the teams are just getting to know each other.
Here's a sample of the Red Wings' schedule from Feb., 1954: Friday night, home vs. Boston; Sunday afternoon, in Boston; Monday night, in Boston. That's pretty boring.
And with 50 years having passed, we like to look at that as a star-studded era when you could watch teams over and over.
Here's a look at the 1953-54 Boston roster: Ed Sandford; Fleming Mackell; Johnny Peirson; Dave Creighton; Joe Klukay. Those were the Bruins' top five scorers that season, by the way. The Maple Leafs' top five scorers were Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ted Kennedy, George Armstrong and Tim Horton. The Rangers' top five were Paul Ronty, Don Raleigh, Wally Hergesheimer, Camille Henry and Nick Mickoski.
And just so you don't think I'm hiding the big names, here are Montreal's top five scorers: Rocket Richard; Boom Boom Geoffrion; Bert Olmstead; Ken Mosdell; and Doug Harvey. Gerry McNeil was the Habs' No. 1 goalie. Some great names on Montreal's list, but that's a lot of shift you'd be watching without seeing Richard or Geoffrion or Harvey.
I've never understood the local cry for more Original Six matchups. Chicago played the Red Wings eight times per season over the past three years, but no one seemed to care. The Rangers were in town last week, but that didn't have much buzz.
A love of playing the Maple Leafs seems to be masked as affection for old-time scheduling.
So schedule the Red Wings and Maple Leafs more often. Go with the 84-game schedule that the Detroit management has been pushing for which guarantees a home-and-home with every other franchise. Heck, you could even lop off a few more conference games and have some designated rivalry games, getting four games between Detroit and Toronto every season.
But stop waving the Original Six flag. That was an era where the standings were predictable and you saw the same teams over and over again.
The Original Six era has been dead for more than 40 years. Let it rest.