We’re providing excerpts from various authors to present their asserted views on the current competitive situation and atmosphere between the KHL, NHL, and European leagues.
According to Bill Meltzer, the North American hockey writer with the most knowledge of the European leagues and Eklund’s Hockey, LLC, with the KHL’s growing expansion across Europe, the strategy is to move the NHL into Europe soon.
There is a plan on the table that would eventually put an 8 team division into Europe.
There are several iterations being kicked around, but the one which has grown the most legs would put 2 teams in Sweden, 1 in Finland, 2 in Switzerland, 1 Czech team, 1 German team, and 1 Slovak team.
But how would this work? Especially considering there are already established teams playing in these cities?
Again, there are several concepts being kicked around, but as opposed to the KHL which (mostly) wants to establish new franchises in these countries, the NHL has an interesting and much more integrated concept.
How it would work is teams in their current leagues would still play in their current leagues, but their schedules would be shortened and a schedule including 8 NHL games versus NHL teams would be added.
Four home games and four away games would be the initial target but that number could eventually be increased to 16 games if all goes well. The determination of who gets to play the NHL teams would be based on the previous year’s results. For example, the two finalists in the Swedish Hockey League — formerly Elitserien — would have their SHL schedule decreased by a 4-8 games and the NHL games added. (Under the current idea, the internal SHL standings would somehow be prorated and would not include the NHL game results). In countries with one participating team, the previous year’s champion would get to play the NHL Teams.
This sounds confusing, but it gets even better!
The team with the best record versus NHL teams would then make the actual Stanley Cup playoffs and be placed in the 4th position in one of the two conferences on a rotating basis. In other words, one year they would be the 4th team in the East, the next year 4th in the West. In the current NHL Conference that loses the 4th spot, a best-of-three qualification series would be played between the 8th vs. 9th place teams.
In keeping the current European hockey calendar, the participating teams in Europe would play their own league playoffs first before the Stanley Cup playoffs (which overlap with the IIHF World Championships) get started.