People who criticize winter sports such as basketball and hockey often point to unnecessary large postseason fields, where more than half the teams in the NBA and NHL make playoffs.
What is the point of a regular season, they say, if it eliminates less than half the teams in the league?
And while the regular season is entertaining and exciting in the NHL and NBA, hockey will go too far if it implements the rumored plan on how to potentially end a season disrupted by COVID-19. Per report, NHL will go into the field of 24 teams, potentially having each division hosting a neutral site series if it cannot complete the regular 82-game season.
If you are NBA and NHL and you have lost almost two months of your season, trying to get a more regular season game should be thrown out the window. We have passed that point. The hockey team played between 68 and 71 matches before the 2019-2020 season was suspended, enough time to make or skip the playoffs given all the circumstances in the US and Canada at this time.
Would it be difficult for a team like New York Islanders, who finished one point from the last wild card position in the Eastern Conference despite having two games at the Columbus Blue Jackets? Correct. But if you give Isles two extra matches, do you also give Carolina Hurricanes, tied with Columbus, those two extra matches too? Then teams like Toronto, New York Rangers and Florida will ask for more time too. Same in the West Region for teams like Vancouver and Minnesota, who are chasing Winnipeg, Calgary, and Nashville to get the final place.
People like the campus basketball championship week with all conference tournaments during the normal years to determine automatic beds for the NCAA Tournament, but in the end they don’t need to take money. What is the purpose of the regular season if each team actually makes its own conference tournament? That is why people live and die with campus football, because each game becomes very important when only four teams compete for the national championship in the end.
Are there NBA teams like Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio and Sacramento who wish they had an extra game to catch Memphis for the last playoff spot in the West? Of course. Will the NHL team and their rights partners be upset because they won’t get income for the remaining 11-14 regular season matches? Clear. Maybe that’s why the 24 team plan was floated from the start.
But there isn’t just the possibility that there’s no more time for regular season matches, putting 24 teams in the playoffs reducing the regular season to a point that’s almost irrelevant. Play five and a half months of exhausting and intense hockey to eliminate only seven of the 31 teams?
If we use Sportsnet model from the 24-member team quoted in CBS
Would it be great if everything could return to normal where the regular season can be finished and we can have as many normal playoffs as we can in the NHL and NBA? Definitely. But at the stage where we are now in the days of the coronavirus, normal conditions throughout North America do not occur anytime soon. So a compromise must be made. The 24-team playoff that makes the regular match of the season fought hard shouldn’t be one of those compromises.