The NHL should be gearing up to start the regular season just about two weeks away. The liklihood of the season starting on time despite new meetings between the NHL and NHLPA is slim to none. A shortened season for the NHL could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the NHL to refocus its efforts to make its on ice product better.
It is my hope – that the talks between the NHL and NHLPA bring about a resolution to the CBA talks in the next couple of weeks, forcing the NHL to merely adjust the schedule, but still manage to get an 82 game regular season schedule in. Currently the NHL regular season was supposed to start on October 11, 2012. The regular season was scheduled to conclude on April 13th, 2013.
If the season were to start later in October – the season could be played in completion without extending the Stanley Cup further into June than already planned.
The first round of the playoff can be reduced to a best of three series, the second round of the playoffs a best of five, with the conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals settled with the standard seven game series.
Realistically, the NHL could reduce the “summer” hockey by adopting that format for every playoff round going forward. The best part of ending the Stanley Cup early? Players get more time off in the summer – and may be fresher going into training camp into the fall.
Want to keep hockey going the same amount of time and getting more fans involved in the playoff excitement – take a page out of the MLBs book and add another team into the playoff mix. Instead of taking the top eight teams into the Stanley Cup playoffs, make the top seven teams automatically qualify for the playoffs, while making the first week of the post season wild card week, where the eighth and ninth place teams in the conference play a best of three series for the final playoff berth. With the amount of parody in the league, the eight and ninth place team are typically interchangeable anyways. Adding another team into the mix for “wild-card week” adds another game for two teams (possibly two games for one of them) to generate more hockey related revenue – so when you get to the fifty-fifty split, both sides are still getting more money.