Changes to the NHL: Mid Season Tournament - Bad or Brilliant - You Decide
Not many know this but a couple months ago I was approached by Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors and interviewed to be the next Commissioner of the National Hockey League. I thought I was going to get the job but ultimately Gary decided he was going to stay on for the next 30 or 40 years.
One of the reasons the NHL wanted to hire me was because of the bevvy of brilliant new ideas I was prepared to bring to the table. For too long the NHL has sat back in popularity in the States with the NFL and NBA exponentially surging. My ideas would surely have skyrocketed the NHL to at the very least be on par with these two giants.
Instead I suppose the next best option is to share these ideas with you, the readers. Grab a coffee, relax and at the end of the blog feel free to vote on whether or not these changes are bad or brilliant. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments sections as well.
*brace yourselves everyone... it's gonna be a long summer
IDEA #1 - THE MID SEASON TOURNAMENT
The NHL regular season means next to nothing. The only thing that the regular season does is determine which 16 teams make it to the playoffs. Years ago the 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, and so on format at least rewarded teams that finished higher up in the standings. Now, the inter-divisional play-in removes much of that.
The NHL wants to build more inter-divisional rivalries and fans want more out of the regular season. This is why I have pitched the Mid-Season Tournament.
The NBA has announced a similar tournament for their next season. Without going into the boring details of basketball, it will occur around the middle of the season with players earning extra cash depending on how their team finishes in the tournament. My tournament would be a little more impactful.
Here is the breakdown:
After roughly the 41 game mark of the season, around the beginning of January, the tournament would begin. At this point the standings will be decided by Point % since not all teams will have played the same number of games. Let's use the Pacific Division as an example.
So after 41 games in 23/24 the Pacific Division Standings breakdown as followed:
1) Edmonton Oilers
2) Vegas Golden Knights
3) Calgary Flames
4) Seattle Kraken
5) LA Kings
6) Vancouver Canucks
7) Anaheim Ducks
8) San Jose Sharks
The Tournament would be a Round Robin styled Tournament. With #1 playing #8, #2 and #7 and so on. Let's say for argument sake:
Oilers(1) beat Sharks(8)
Ducks(7) beat Golden Knights(2)
Flames(3) beat Canucks(6)
Kraken(4) beat Kings(5)
For Game 2, the games are re-seeded with the top team playing the lowest seeded winner and so on. The top seeded loser would play the bottom seeded loser and so on. So...
Oilers(1) play Ducks(7)
Flames(3) play Kraken(4)
Golden Knights(2) play Sharks(8)
Kings(5) play Canucks(6)
For Games 3 and 4, the same format would occur with the top winner playing the lower seeded winner and top loser playing lower seeded loser.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
Remember, I'm tackling three birds with one stone here. I want to increase divisional rivalries, draw more fans to watch hockey, and have the regular season feel like it means something.
At the end of the tournament, the winner would be decided by the team that has won the most games. If there is a tie there would be a few tie breakers:
- Team with most regulation wins (in tournament)
- Team who scored more goals
- Team who allowed fewer goals
- Team with better head to head record (in season)
From these categories the 8 teams would be ranked again from 1-8 based on how they did in the tournament. Let's say the tournament ended like this:
5) Golden Knights
Each team would be given a number of points in the standings based off of where they finished. That would mean...
1) Ducks - 12 points
2) Oilers - 10 points
3) Kraken - 8 points
4) Flames - 7 points
5) Golden Knights - 6 points
6) Sharks - 5 points
7) Canucks - 4 points
8) Kings - 3 points
After playing 4 regular season games where normally you could earn a total of 8 points, a team could instead earn 12 points.
There is the option for some absolute chaos here. If this scenario occurred, a team like the Ducks that could have been 12 or 15 points down in the standings prior to the tournament beginning could suddenly have a new lease on life. A team like the Kings that were in a good position are suddenly scrambling to improve in the standings again. A team like Edmonton that was already in a good position is able to stand firm.
Sports are supposed to be entertaining. A tournament with this rule set suddenly turns meh hockey in January into a must-watch event that could heavily factor into how the rest of the season plays out. Maybe your team you thought was dead in the water suddenly has a fighting chance. Maybe your team now needs to fight tooth and nail after a mediocre tournament to fight for their playoff spot again.
There is also the building the game factor. What other major sports tournaments are happening in January across North America? Something like this could get non-hockey fans to check in and see what all the fuss is about.
A tournament like this could also effect how GM's handle their season. Instead of waiting for a trade deadline deal, a General Manager might instead try and bolster his roster in December to ensure their team has a chance to secure those 12 points.
The NHL needs to come out of their shell and not be so afraid to try some new and unique things to market themselves better and increase their audience. A tournament like this could give fans a chance to watch playoff level hockey in early January and add some spice to the rest of the regular season.
What say you?