Both the NBA and NHL are looking to bring basketball and hockey to television screens. The leagues have agreed to not finish the regular season as originally planned. Therefore, the NBA regular season will resume with 22 teams. All of these teams will play games in Orlando, Florida. Meanwhile, the NHL completely did away with the regular season, instead opting for a 24-team Stanley Cup Playoff. The NBA will have eight “seeding games” per team to determine the final playoff seeds.
NBA Keeps Regular Season in Imperfect Format
The NBA elected to give teams the chance to improve their seeding before the actual playoffs begin. Each of the 22 NBA teams returning will play eight regular-season “seeding games” to better determine how the playoff field is shaped. Thirteen Western Conference teams will go to Orlando, while only nine Eastern Conference teams will.
It may have been better for the league to go in the direction of not making the playoff brackets based on conference standings. The more practical approach could have been for the playoffs to not be conference-based, but rather league-based. Although it would have broken from tradition, it would have provided a better assurance of the 16 best teams being in the playoffs.
Another point of contention from the NBA’s return-to-play plan is that despite teams having different numbers of games played, every team going to Orlando will be playing eight games. The standings will be based on win percentage. This puts teams like the Dallas Mavericks at a disadvantage, as far as seeding, because they have played 67 games. The teams in front of the Mavericks have the same number of wins as them (40), but have only 24 losses, compared to Dallas’ 27.
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However, there is also an argument to be made about competitive balance as far as all teams playing the same number of games upon arrival to Orlando. It just seems like the Mavericks got the raw end of the deal. Three more NBA games does not sound like much, but one could argue the Mavericks lost those games due to the fact they had to play (slightly) more often than their opponents. Competitive balance is an issue, but fans will be happy to see this NBA season returning.
NHL Does Away With Regular Season, Opting For 24-Team Playoff
The NHL’s return-to-play plan is more succinct than the NBA’s, as teams already know who they will be playing in the first round of the playoffs. It was a good thing for the league to go 12 teams deep in each conference, as it feels like teams that would have been normally left out of the playoffs are getting a fair shot. However, some may not be happy if one of the teams who would have been normally left out of the playoffs ends up winning the Stanley Cup. Overall, the NHL made the right decision because teams that were gearing up to make a run for one of the final playoff spots simply were not able to do so. Also, if the higher seeds are truly better, they should be able to take care of business against the lower seeds.
The best part of the NHL’s 24-team playoffs is that the top four teams from each conference will get to play each other once to determine their exact seed for the playoffs. This means a team like the Colorado Avalanche, who ended up one single point behind the St. Louis Blues when the season was paused, will have a shot to basically jump ahead of them in the standings. The situation in the East is also unique, as the Philadelphia Flyers had arguably the best form of any team before the pause. The Flyers would have been the 4-seed, but now they will get the chance to show how much of an improvement they have made as they play Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington to determine their exact seed line.
Both Leagues’ Postseasons Will Be Fun to Watch, But NHL’s Format May Be Better
The NBA and NHL both came up with creative ways to finish their seasons. One thing is for sure: they will both be entertaining to fans that have a thirst for the top-four major American sports leagues to come back. However, the edge in terms of which league had the better plan has to go to the NHL for now. Even though they may have let too many teams into the playoffs, it gives teams who were within a few games a guarantee at a chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The NBA teams that are going to Orlando are given that assurance to, but indirectly. They could be going home without playing an official playoff game. Also, it seems unbalanced in the fact that there are four more Western Conference teams that are returning than Eastern Conference teams. The teams in the East have a better assurance of making the playoffs than the teams in the West, which could be seen as unfair.
Fans will surely be entertained by both formats, but there was more clarity with the NHL’s return-to-play plan, despite the fact that there has been no announcement about the hub cities in which the teams will be playing. The NBA’s format could prove to be more successful, but on the surface, the NHL’s playoff format gives teams a more fair chance to win that respective league.