The NBA is contemplating a major overhaul in how they operate during the regular season and the playoffs.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association have had preliminary discussions about bringing possible changes to the league’s calendar year.
Among those changes include reducing the number of games from 82 to 78; adding an in-season tournament that would include all 30 teams; and reseeding in the conference finals that would be based on regular season record. So, there’s a chance that an Eastern Conference team could face a Western Conference team in the final four, and two teams from the same conference could play in the NBA Finals.
Considering the NHL is alike in the NBA in playing 82 games a year, this seemed like a plausible topic to ask some of the Vegas Golden Knights players. So, that’s what I did.
On the shortened schedule
Golden Knights rookie defenseman Nic Hague hasn’t been around long enough to question if an 82-game season is long enough or not. In juniors, he definitely had the breaks in-between to make the schedule bearable.
“I know in junior, we played 60, 68 games,” Hague said. “And even then, with the 3-on-3s, it feels kind of long. It’d be hard to say. Hard for me to comment. I don’t really have an opinion on an 82-game schedule yet, either.”
Vegas forward Ryan Reaves doesn’t like the idea of reducing the schedule to only four games. But more games? There’s the sweet spot.
“It’s only four games. It takes like two back-to-backs and two other games away,” Reaves said. “It doesn’t really make that big of a difference. If you want to make a splash, you go to 72.”
Count forward Jonathan Marchessault on board as well for reducing the number of games because it would help toward a Stanley Cup Playoff push.
“The last 10 are hard, especially since there’s a few teams that are battling, but there’s a lot of teams that you know are going to make the playoffs,” he said. “You’re playing, but you know you don’t want to get hurt because you want to be there for the playoffs. I could see it being good.”
On the in-season tournament
Despite Wojnarowski reporting the TV revenue and the lucrative financial rewards that would come of this, here’s the least popular choice. There’s a chance for an NBA team to play a maximum of 83 regular season games due to the tournament and possible play-in games to get into the playoffs.
This one was commonly agreed on: If the NHL did it, it wouldn’t be ideal.
“Don’t need that,” Hague said. “I think as a professional athlete, you want to play for the big trophy. It’s probably the only thing that matters.”
Even if money was on the line, Reaves isn’t on board for it.
“The problem with doing something like that in hockey is that it’s such a physical game ... what’s the repercussions of winning?” Reaves said. “That seems like a reach.”
Marchessault also agreed.
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “There are teams that would have more games, they would get hurt more if they got bad injuries in those games. I don’t think it would be ideal. Say there’s one team that gets eliminated after their first game or second game, and there’s another team that plays six games into the finals. It don’t mean anything so you won’t even dress your players. I wouldn’t be a fan of it.”
On the postseason reseeding
Here’s the winner. For the conference final, the seeding would be based on regular season record.
I’d imagine it would be based on points in the NHL. Two years ago, the conference final would have been the same: Vegas at Winnipeg, and Washington at Tampa. It would be the same if based on regulation wins. The best example of a shakeup would be the 2016-17 season: Nashville would’ve played Pittsburgh not in the Cup Final, and the Anaheim Ducks would have hosted the Ottawa Senators in the other bracket.
“That’d be interesting,” Hague said. “It’s very different. It’s traditional in every sport that you go through your conference first and then cross over. It might be kind of cool to switch it up a little bit.”
Reaves is also in favor of seeding shakeups, but thinks the best way is to go back to the old way.
“I would like it to go back to 1 vs. 8,” he said.
Marchessault was concerned a bit about the traveling aspect, but he’s a fan.
“That could be fun,” he said. “When in the playoffs, we’re hitting the teams that we see all year, pretty much. We see the East twice. It could be something that could be fun. The traveling wouldn’t be ideal. At some point, they still give us extra days. It’s not too bad.”
Should the NHL do something like this?
Shortening the schedule? Maybe. Hockey is obviously more physical. Star players are resting more in the NBA (“load management”) to be ready for the playoffs. NHL players might be in favor of eliminating more back-to-backs.
The in-season tournament? That’s a block of time that would be highly unpredictable to make work. The 31 arenas likely hold other events throughout the year that are planned well in advance. The players want the Olympics or the World Cup. That’s more incentive than playing for some other trophy or extra money.
Conference final reseeding? It might be difficult to do based on the current playoff format, because the past two seasons would have provided the exact same conference final matchups. If the NHL went back to 1 vs. 8, then that would certainly shake things up.
Moral of the story: Big changes would equal weird results.