NBC released its NHL broadcast schedule for the 2017-18 season yesterday. As it is every year, this announcement featured its various surprises as each fan base attempted to piece together why their team was not getting enough coverage or began to brag about the spotlight they did receive.
Directly, NBC described the schedule the following way:
STAMFORD, Conn. – July 31, 2017 – Coming off of the most-watched Stanley Cup Final without an Original Six team on record, NBC Sports Group is scheduled to present 99 NHL regular-season games during the 2017-18 season, beginning on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, when the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins host the St. Louis Blues. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.
“We’re proud to offer our most diverse NHL schedule ever to fans across the country,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer & President of Production, NBC Sports. “From classic rivalries and historic franchises, to young stars such as Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, a hockey-crazed market in Nashville, and a new franchise in Vegas, this schedule represents our commitment to present the NHL’s diverse and emerging stars, teams, and stories.”
Along with the usual Wednesday Night Rivalry (featuring a barn-burning opening matchup of Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis (?)) and Winter Classic coverage, NBC has added Wednesday Nightcap which will showcase Western Conference teams and Sunday Night Hockey a month after the conclusion of the NFL season.
What does this mean for the New Jersey Devils?
Well, they will be featured exactly one time. On Tuesday, October 17th, the Devils will face off against Tampa Bay on NBCSN and will not be seen again barring unforeseen circumstances. Puck Daddy has a very good analysis on overall winners and losers of this schedule release and keep in mind, several teams are not covered at all on the US national schedule (Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg), but this proposed schedule seems to contradict NBC’s statement of intention.
We all know the Devils were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference last year, but if you are attempting to profile young stars, wouldn’t there be some merit to showing off last year’s first overall pick? He will get to play only once on a national stage while the second pick will get a whole lot of love. The Flyers somehow swung 16 games on the schedule despite not being a playoff team last year. Does it have anything to do with the fact that Nico Hischier is not a native North American and that the Devils are dwarfed by nearby division rivals in terms of coverage? Probably. Do the Flyers have a strong partnership with Comcast to NBC’s benefit? Maybe. However, that is no excuse to give the last three first overall picks a combined seven games of national coverage. Those are the brightest young stars and they will be skipped over for a riveting Wednesday night Buffalo-Columbus “rivalry” game. The Devils may not be there quite yet to qualify as an “emerging team”, but Columbus certainly does and their only contest is that aforementioned manufactured rivalry showdown. Toronto and Edmonton have their own Canadian coverage, which partially explains why teams like the Sabres have more NBC games than them but there are plenty of teams worth watching that were passed over for repeated appearances by the usual suspects (NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston).
Hey, at least Vegas will have five games! That’s only two less than the “hockey-crazed market in Nashville” which was host to last year’s Stanley Cup finalists.
You know, the Vegas that brings about these types of hypothetical questions:
Thought: if you made a team out of the best remaining UFAs, could that team beat Vegas four out of seven?— Dave Lozo (@davelozo) July 27, 2017
What do you think? Should the Devils get more love? Does it even matter? Let’s talk about it.