The national VERSUS schedule features the Sabres seven times this season, including four straight Monday night games. It also features the Penguins and Red Wings eight times and the Blackhawks nine times. On the flip side, six teams do not get national games this season: Anaheim, Atlanta, Carolina, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Vancouver. If it were not for the overseas games, Florida would not have a game as well. Also, out of the 112 teams represented in the 56 national games, 58 of them are Eastern teams and another 17 are Detroit and Columbus. That accounts for two-thirds of all of the teams that are being shown.
Both the NHL and VERSUS need to take a step back and follow the model of MLB Network. They have made the pledge to show at least one game from every team in the MLB, and not just the ones that get the most ratings. While the NHL network will pick up some of these teams with the simulcasts of the CBC and TSN Wednesday night games, it still needs to grow the game on its biggest stage.
Not showing every game on the exclusive cable home for hockey is a travesty. Teams like Anaheim, Atlanta, and Carolina should be represented because most people like myself are not only Sabres fans, they are hockey fans and want to see a mixture of all of the teams in the NHL. There is a definite East Coast bias when it comes to situations like this, either the VERSUS or NBC schedule or even the national awards. A good way to overcome that is to give the Western Conference more exposure.
There are solutions to these problems though that could give the league more exposure and a better overall effect of their national television schedule.
1. Broadcast more games
If the league is going to give VERSUS exclusive cable rights to their league, it needs to force its hand and tell the channel to air more games on different nights. They seem to be able to handle the seven day a week schedule of the NHL playoffs without having other scheduling issues. How hard would it be to add at least another day of the week into their schedule, say like a Thursday night.
2. Use the relationships that you have established.
VERSUS has a content partnership with TSN in which they air the NHL Draft, certain playoff games, and the Grey Cup. TSN has a Wednesday night game of the week which has its own exclusivity rights to it so reairing the Wednesday Night game of the week would allow the channel to save resources while adding more games to the lineup.
3. Create own league highlight show or reair NHL on the Fly
When NHL Network started NHL on the Fly last year, it was a resurrection of NHL2Night that most people were waiting for. Unfortunately, less people get NHL Network than they do VERSUS. I really do think that it would serve the league and the channel well to reair NHL on the Fly on Versus every night. It does not need to repeat as often as it does on NHL Network but it would service the fans that are unable to get NHL Network.
If there are anymore suggestions as to how the league could improve their national television coverage, lets hear them in the comments. And at this point, switching to ESPN is not an option.