American Sports Champions are Never Best Team
May 9, 2018
This is the time of year when many major sports leagues crown a champion. The NHL, NBA, and English Premier League might be the biggest three. As the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll on, as well to the NBA Playoffs, the Premier League has already determined its champion, and its best team. It is impossible for the NHL and NBA (as well as every single major American Sports League) to determine the best team, with the current playoff structure.
The English Premier League is the best major sporting league in the world, when it comes to identifying the best team. Every season, the EPL’s 20 qualifying clubs play a home and home round robin. 38 games, 38 games to determine a champion. A win is rewarded with 3 points, a draw is rewarded with 1 point, and a loss is 0 points. After those 38 games, the club with the most points is the champion. If there is a tie, goal differential and goals scored determine the placings. If the tie is for championship, relegation, or Champions League, then, and only then, is a playoff used.
The NBA, and NHL each play 82 games a year. The NHL’s 31 teams are divided into four divisions and two conferences. The NBA is six meaningless divisions and two conferences. Instead of having the regular season decide everything, a 16 -team playoff is used for both leagues. The 16 are decided in different ways. In the NHL, each of the top three teams in both divisions in each conference qualify. Then, the two best remaining teams in each conference qualify as wild cards. Those teams are decided by the NHL’s point standing system. In the NBA, the eight teams in each conference that win the most games qualify. Then 15 best-of-seven series determine the champion. Over half of each league’s teams are invited to play for the championship. For the best teams, the regular season does not matter.
If these two leagues want to determine the best team, they need to change how they schedule. For the NBA, each team should play 87 games. In the NHL, 89. That would be three games against all the other teams. Every team plays a home and home with every other team, and the last game is a yearly home and home. Start the seasons in early November, and end it in mid-June, like the NBA/Stanley Cup finals. An added bonus of this would be eliminating the backs to backs, 3 in 4s, and 4 in 5s. If the NBA and NHL are so inclined, they could release a schedule with the first 70 games of the season, in August. Then, on May 1, release the last 17/19, in an effort to make the title contenders play at the end of the season, and determine the best team. The champion and real best team, would be the squad that wins the most games against an equal schedule.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs might be the best sporting event from mid-April to mid-June, as exciting, exhilarating, and entertaining as they might be, a real champion will not be crowned. The same could be said for the NBA Playoffs. TV deals and networks might have not like the idea, but looking closer, if every playoff series went to 7 games, it would be 30 more games in a season, than this structure. If the NBA and NHL, truly want to identify the best team, they should figure out a way how to do it.