NBC Sports Group announced its television schedule for the 2015-16 NHL season Monday, July 27. Their choices were predictable not only because of the draw certain stars and rivalries it features but for the steady diet of media darlings and emphasis on Eastern Conference hockey it forces down the throats of the rest of the hockey world.
For instance, the Philadelphia Flyers are on their docket three of their first seven games. Their 18 appearances overall finished behind only the three-time defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (21).
Philadelphia may have a bad team with a ways to go to even be a Stanley Cup playoff contender, but it is in the right time zone. The Eastern Conference has 117 teams playing on national television, while the Western Conference has only 91 but is likely to get the last two in the final game that is the only one left to be determined.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were no surprise as the other team with 18 appearances. They have a dynamic offensive game with plenty of star power starting with the best hockey player in the world. They are also still making changes Tuesday with a trade of Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening that adds more excitement around the team.
The Detroit Red Wings (16) are no surprise as the next team over 13 despite some changes because they will end the 2015-16 NHL season by making it 25 years since they last missed the Stanley Cup playoffs. The New York Rangers being the only other one over a dozen (13) is no surprise because despite their decline from cap constrictions and age, they are a large-market team with star power that knows how to win.
Then again, there were a number of surprises. There will be no game featuring Connor McDavid except March 1. Part of this is because Canadian teams will be featured more on CBC. Four of the seven teams north of the border (the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators) are not scheduled to play a single game on any NBC Network broadcast, and the Montreal Canadiens are the only one of the seven to be televised more than once (six times).
It is also somewhat of a surprise that the Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning are only broadcast eight times during the 2015-16 NHL season. This is an exciting team with a big star in the right time zone.
Sniper Alex Ovechkin and the consistent Stanley Cup playoff-earning Washington Capitals will only be televised 11 times. The exciting young New York Islanders took them to seven games in the Atlantic Division semifinals and are in the biggest market in the NHL, but only featured five times.
The Anaheim Ducks are going for their fourth Pacific Division title in the 2015-16 NHL season and have arguably the best line in hockey, but are playing in only four nationally televised games. Their crosstown rival Los Angeles Kings are the only team besides Chicago to win more than one of the last dozen Stanley Cups, but are nationally televised a modest 10 times.
How about the Nashville Predators, the second-place team in the best division in hockey that barely lost to the Stanley Cup champion despite being without their best player? They get on national television four times. The revamped Dallas Stars with the top scorer of the 2014-15 NHL season? They are nationally televised just three times.
Still, the Flyers are the only one of the dozen teams featured at least 10 times to make only one of the last three Stanley Cup playoffs and one of only three unlikely to make it after the 2015-16 NHL season. The Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues are also featured a dozen times, with the San Jose Sharks getting 11 to round off those mentioned above with double-digit appearances.
All five American teams featured only once have missed more postseasons than they have made, and four of them are unlikely to make it next April: Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. The only other team not previously mentioned plays an understandable five nationally televised games: Jack Eichel’s Buffalo Sabres have not been to the Stanley Cup playoffs recently and are not likely to at the end of the 2015-16 NHL season, but are going to be more exciting.