Tuesday, December 04, 2012

How Short Is Too Short for an NHL Season?

The NHL has canceled all games until December 14th, along with the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game. For the Boston Bruins, that leaves 53 games on the schedule. And that's enough for a legitimate regular season. But what is the bare minimum number of games for a season?

I put the number at 31. Each team could play 16 divisional games (4 per opponent), then 10 games in the conference (1 per opponent), then 5 games against the other conference (each division in the Eastern Conference would face another division in the Western Conference, so for example the Northeast Division could play the Pacific Division). 31 total games. Just enough to determine divisional winners, and the top 8 from each conference.

The Bruins would have 31 games left on their schedule on February 6th.

Another possible answer is a 36 game schedule, with 16 divisional games and 20 conference games (2 against each opponent). There'd be no interconference games.

If it's determined that a 40+ game schedule is required, then the deadline for that would be around January 15th. Not to mention the time needed for training, practice, cuts, et cetera. I think 40 is what the NHL might consider a minimum.

I'd guess that the deadline for getting a deal done is the end of this month. If the NHL and NHLPA can't come to terms by New Year's Day, then there will be no hockey until next winter. We are approaching the Zero Hour.

If There Were a College Football Playoff This Season

We're getting a 4 team playoff system next year, but let's fantasize about what that would look like for the 2012 season...

#1 Notre Dame vs. #4 Oregon
#2 Alabama vs. #3 Florida

Notre Dame's defense against Oregon's offense would be fun to watch. And even though Bama and Florida are both in the SEC, this would be the first time they've played this season.

Here's what a 6 team playoff would look like...

First round byes:
#1 Notre Dame
#2 Alabama

#3 Florida vs. #6 Stanford
#4 Oregon vs. #5 Kansas State

It's hard to argue that Stanford and K-State don't deserve title shots. And who wouldn't want to see the Oregon and K-State game?

Here's what a basic 8 team playoff would look like...

#1 Notre Dame vs. #8 LSU
#2 Alabama vs. #7 Georgia
#3 Florida vs. #6 Stanford
#4 Oregon vs. #5 Kansas State

I don't like this. It's too SEC heavy, it has a rematch, and a basic top-8 playoff would diminish the importance of winning conference titles. So let's have an 8 team playoff with the winners of the six BCS conferences given automatic births.

#1 Notre Dame vs. #8 Wisconsin
#2 Alabama vs. #7 Louisville
#3 Florida vs. #6 Florida State
#4 Stanford vs. #5 Kansas State

That's better, but not better enough. Let's only give automatic births to the top 4 BCS conference champions, then give 4 at-large spots based on BCS rankings.

#1 Notre Dame vs. #8 Florida State
#2 Alabama vs. #7 Georgia
#3 Florida vs. #6 Stanford
#4 Oregon vs. #5 Kansas State

So there's still lots of SEC teams, still a rematch, but it does reward winning conferences. What if we expand to a 12 team playoff, give each of the 6 BCS conference winners a spot, and 6 at-large spots. And let's give first round byes to Notre Dame and the top 3 conference winners.

First round byes:
#1 Notre Dame
#2 Alabama
#3 Kansas State
#4 Stanford

#5 Florida vs. #12 Wisconsin
#6 Oregon vs. #11 Louisville
#7 Georgia vs. #10 Florida State
#8 LSU vs. #9 Texas A&M

It's a bit complex, and maybe it's too big. But it gets conference winners involved, and has space for at-large teams to get in. There's also the possibility of upsets. We loves those in the basketball tournament and football's regular season. They'd be even better in a football playoff.

Anyway, all of these systems provide better games than watching Northern Illinois play Florida State. And the potential quantity of good football is much higher. The stakes are also higher, which can only add to the entertainment value. How much more interesting would Louisville/Florida be if there were a chance to advance in the playoffs? How many more people would watch on TV? How many more would travel across the country to see the game?