We are almost at the 2012-13 NHL season breaking point. As close as the two sides are is as close as it is that we do not see any portion of a season played. And there will be no NHL stuffed in your stocking from Santa this year.
But what is that breaking point?
10 January to 16 April
We say the season must start on 10 January or it is lost. Why 10 January? Contemplate the following:
1. If teams only play within their Conference pre-Playoffs, and
2. If you do not have them play more than four games in a week, and
3. If every team is to play an even number of games home and away for revenue purposes, and
4. If every team plays a back-to-back pair each week which includes a weekend of either FRI-SAT or SAT-SUN, then…
Several things are apparent. First are that the number of games that can be played are not more than 56. In fact, the numbers work out to either 42 (too few, most say), 44 (on the verge of too few), 46 (almost), 48 (OK), 52 (better) or 56 (best for mana$ement).
The top number has teams playing four games per week for all but the short opening and closing weeks of the season, a pace that will launch injuries with little recovery time before the playoffs. The 56-Plan makes a lot of untested guesses about arena availability and generally is more of a scheduling nightmare. Those 56 games are played at 6 X Division foes plus 3 X Other-Conference teams (with an obvious split of home and away games).
The 48-Plan is more palatable at 4 X Division foes plus 3 X Other-Conference teams because it will give each team eight of the 13 weeks between opening season long-weekend and the short, pre-Playoff week where they only play three games. That is more likely because it will allow for the NHL scheduling crew to work out availabilities, and it should be something players would appreciate with the extra recuperation time.
So let’s call it a 48-game season beginning 10 January, with some kind of New Years’ training camp and 15 games on the schedule every Saturday afternoon/night.
How many points does a team need to make it into the Playoffs under a 48-game schedule?
Curiously, the AHL is almost at half that number of games across the board. If you extrapolate where they are now into 48 games, the current No. 8 seeds would need between 50 and 52 points. Doing the same to historical No. 8 seeds in the NHL since the Lockout would indicate 53 – to – 55 points are required. So teams will need somewhere between 25 and 28 wins to make the playoffs.
Afterwards is truly a toss-up as to who wins the Cup. Who just squeaked in on the last day and how healthy is their roster will be the first questions before asking how their lines match up against the better team. Can you say, “Hot goalie! Get your red, hot goalie here!!” as a key to the possible winning team? Oh, and the leading scorer is likely to only have 63 points, with the most goals in the range of 35. (Wouldn’t it be something if someone pulled the ’81-’82 or ’83-’84 Gretzky and netted 50?)
Ahhh, the Playoffs… Would the 2013 Playoffs be altered, or would they not?
We say the 48-game Regular (asterisk) Season schedule gives the NHL the ability to jockey with things in order to still begin the Playoffs as currently scheduled on 13 April. We said 16 April above as the ending date, but if they really want to keep the Playoffs on track, then they can. So maybe the Playoffs are not altered, but instead the Playoffs serve to alter the Regular (asterisk) Season.
But you could just as easily go old school with Round 1 consisting of a Best – Of – 5 series before breaking off into the Best – Of – 7’s. Admittedly, this is less likely as we know this Lockout we are seeing is all about the money, so the more games played the better.
All 7’s it is then, in four rounds and ending as the current schedule would have had it.
So we say the end comes on 10 January if we are not dropping the puck. Doing so allows for a 48-game, all in-Conference season with reasonable recovery time and reasonable ability to schedule against arena availability. It ends in time to start the Playoffs on 13 April as currently scheduled where we see the traditional four rounds of Best – Of – 7 series.
(And we didn’t say it, but they won’t do a home-and-away against every other team in the NHL over 58 games unless they want to play late into June. They also won’t go to everyone in one pool and the top 16 teams duke it out for the Cup because that would be too exciting. So for those with the big, other, out of the box dream, we’re sorry. Only vanilla served up here….)