AHL Done. 24 vs. 16 Team Playoff
The AHL has announced that they are done for the year. No more games, no playoffs, just done. That follows the NCAA in cancelling their winter championships and all spring sports.
Both MLB and the NBA have followed the same path as the NHL, holding out hope that they can finish their 2019-2020 season.
Does the AHL shutdown tell us anything about what may happen in the NHL or mean anything for next season?
Minor league economics work very differently than major sports economics. The main difference is obvious: player salaries. I don't claim to know the margins behind pro sports, especially minor league sports. I don't have a finance degree and have not looked at any of the books of AHL teams. But, general economics in these conditions would lead me to believe that not all the AHL teams will make it. The obvious exception is if the NHL provides a bailout to AHL teams. The NHL has it's own problems and this scenario is unlikely. But, the NHL may not understand how valuable the AHL and it's teams are until they are gone. With minor league players needing to play somewhere, they will likely flood Europe. This makes player evaluations more difficult and costly. It also makes the transition to the NHL harder if they are not in North America.
The AHL shutdown signals a focus on a path forward. Without the finish to the current season constantly under question and looming over their head, they can plan 2020-2021. This was a tough decision, I'm sure. It was a financial hit for the teams. But, this move allows teams to close the books on 2019-2020 and determine how to begin next season. It is a smart move for the AHL. While there is a rich history there, it isn't monumental that they didn't crown a champion.
Should the NHL just cancel their 2019-2020 season? I have thought all along that this would be the case. Too many local government decisions have to line up and too many precautions need to be taken for fans to be in the seats watching the NHL finish their season. No matter which side of politics you sit on, this is a huge economic and health safety concern. That aside, how would the NHL finish 2019-2020?
24 team vs. 16 team playoff
Let's finally admit that the NHL regular season has ended. If there is to be a normal-ish 2020-2021 calendar, the NHL has to scrap the final month of the season.
If the NHL decides it can have playoffs and crown a Stanley Cup Champion do they follow the current rules or modify them? Do current rules apply if you play no more regular season games? Would you use current standings or some sort of % of points formula to determine who makes the playoffs.
Sixteen teams in the current playoff format would be the purist idea of how to run the playoffs. A hockey purist would also want the regular season finished and that's not happening. Even though I am bias as a Blue Jackets fan, if you go with 16 team format you have to use % of points formula. This would mean that the CBJ would be sitting out the 2020 playoffs. Sad, but the most fair, sticking as close to the NHL's current rules as possible.
Twenty four teams in the playoffs is a radical departure from current NHL rules. That would result in 77% of the league's team making the post season. That seriously diminishes the value of the regular season and is a slippery slope to go down. Regardless of what is going on in the world it sets a precedent. But it also means more teams (and the NHL) being able to recover some revenue before the end of 2019-2020. I like the idea of a play-in round. We could see more upsets like Columbus pulled of a season ago. With a shortened play-in round each game has a heightened value. The first games played after a long layoff would be very interesting.
One thing is certain, the NHL has always adapted and led the way when it comes to major sports leagues trying something new. It isn't a stretch for the NHL to expand their playoffs, even just for this season. The other suggestion is to shrink the playoffs to 4 teams. No one would be in favor of that except those 4 teams. But, that could happen too. If the decision was 'no hockey' or 'just the 4 division winners' I would pick the latter.
It is an interesting debate and these are interesting times we live in.
With the country beginning to open back up, I wish you all Good Luck and Stay Safe