There’s so much I love about the Stanley Cup playoffs–the quickened pace of what is already the “fastest sport in the world,” and the increased intensity are just a few things playoff hockey has to offer. But I can’t help thinking the postseason is too long.
I am not one to demand less hockey, but I also can’t deny that playoff fatigue comes over me every year. We’re now in the third week of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and are just now entering the second round. There is at least another month left in the postseason.
It’s a bit ridiculous, but there are options out there that would solve the issue and still leave fans happy.
1. Change first two rounds to best of five
Unlike Major League Baseball, the NHL’s first two rounds are similar to that of the NBA format and are best-of seven series. Unlike the NBA, though, the NHL is often a lot more competitive in the first round. Therefore it’s not uncommon to see a series to go six or seven games, as evidenced by the three series that went to seven games this year.
A seven-game series takes roughly two weeks complete, which is ridiculously long for the opening rounds of the playoffs.
The league’s best bet to fix this problem would be to emulate Major League Baseball and make the first two rounds best-of-five. You’d eliminate at least an entire week from the playoffs as a result.
That’s not a lot of time, but I would bet we’d see more three-game sweeps and thus less time taken up by the first two rounds.
2.) Back-to-back home games
A staple of playoff hockey is the day off between games, even if the teams are playing back-to-back games in the same city. Sometimes the league even gives the teams two days off between playoff games.
I understand how grueling and demanding hockey is (especially in the playoffs), but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to prohibit teams playing back-to-back games when they’re staying in the same city.
There are always a few times in the regular season where teams play back-to-back games, so it wouldn’t be difficult to adjust or get used to that schedule.
3.) A 12-team playoff
Out of the 30 total teams in the NHL, just over half (16) make the playoffs. That means the playoffs don’t even truly include the elite and worthy teams in the league that season. It also contributes prolonging the postseason more than it has to.
The new playoff format that came with the league’s realignment will create a wild card round, but that seems unnecessary and still keeps the 16-team format.
Some good teams are going to be barred from the playoffs with the 12-team format, but it does make the playoffs truly representative of the league’s best, so there would be no shortage of good hockey.
If the NHL took those three steps it could dramatically reduce the length of its postseason and create an even better brand of hockey as a result.