On this blog, we have started a new series that analyzes American sports leagues and the problem that they have created for themselves by having a playoff at the end of the regular season. Since the NBA and the NHL are in the middle of their 2017 playoffs, we decided to start with them.
So far, we have laid out the problems for both winter leagues, and we have presented a solution. Before we simulate how our solution could look -- which will be the finale of our NBA/NHL posts in this series -- we wanted to see how the real thing is being affected.
So far, the NBA has gotten lucky. 7 of the top 8 seeds won their first round series. The best teams are still alive. The integrity of the regular season is still intact. It does beg the question, though: If we are going to get the best teams in the NBA Finals anyway, is all this April/May basketball worth it?
Don't get me wrong. It's fun to watch as a fan. But is is worth it?
The real story is in the NHL. Those playoff series have been rife with upsets. Again, it is fun for the fans, but is that what we really want?
If you list all of the NHL teams in the order of their regular season points, you will notice that 3 of the top 5 lost in the first round of the playoffs. One of those 3 teams was the #1 seed in the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks.
In other words, Chicago played 82 games and was the best team in its conference. All it got them was a #1 seed in the playoffs. And in those playoffs, they lost 4 games to the Nashville Predators, the lowest-seeded playoff team.
Sure, I grant you that Nashville won those games fair and square. In the playoff system we have, they earned the right to move on. They got hot at the right time and have reaped the benefits. I don't argue that.
What's wrong about this is how easy it is to just throw out 82 games -- 6 months of our lives. Nashville's defeat over Chicago proves that the regular season does not matter. Playoffs do not reward the best team over the course of the season, only the best team at the end of the season.
And if all that matters is being best at the end of the season, I am tuning out until then. Which is why these leagues have a regular season problem.
The best team in the East over 82 games -- the Washington Capitals -- should have played the best team in the West (Chicago) in the Stanley Cup Finals. But that won't happen. Why?
Because once upon a time, someone decided that it was better to use 4 games as a gauge for who was better than to use 82.
How dumb is that?
Next time, we will give you a simulated season for our proposed solution. For real. No more bonus post rants. Unless the Golden State Warriors somehow lose.