By Mark Paulette,
How does one make the MLB, NBA and NHL regular seasons + postseasons more intriguing? Look no further than European football…aka…soccer. I have taken three modes of competition from the beautiful game and applied one each to America’s respective leagues.
Major League Baseball – How do we end tanking and purify the league of all the putrid teams in the bottom two-thirds? Force those teams to fight for their place in the MLB. Right off the bat, we say Sayonara to a third of the league. Goodbye to the 10-worst finishers from last season, you are now playing in the PBL – the Promotional Baseball League.
Here’s how it works – most soccer leagues are set up to promote and relegate 3-to-4 teams per year. Meaning the three teams with the worst records get the drop, while a small handful of teams are rewarded for having either the top-2 records, or win the promotion playoffs played between the 3rd-6th place teams in the secondary league. Now, we have to adapt slightly because of the current divisional format in the MLB. So how are we going to do that? By being ruthless. Each year, five teams are cycled down to the PBL, while their 5-best are boosted to the Majors. Nothing changes with the current playoff format at the MLB level, and the 5-worst records in baseball get the ax.
In the second tier, the top-4 records are rewarded with automatic promotion to MLB for the following year, while teams 5-6 take part in a promotion playoff, consisting of a best-of-3 series. Divisions in MLB would have to be slightly fluid in this fantasy world, as there may be an imbalance with say the AL East having four teams with records not worthy of staying in MLB, while the AL West only has two. Because of that, newly promoted/relegated teams may shift divisions on a year-to-year basis. And here’s where you take out all hope of tanking. Picks 1-5 in the draft are rewarded each year to the teams being promoted to MLB, so that it is a reward and not a safety net. The bottom five teams in the PBL get picks 6-10, while picks 11-30 are in reverse order of the MLB standings.
National Basketball Association – It’s time to make the playoffs less predictable. How might you ask? By adopting soccer’s league table format. Get rid of the Eastern and Western conferences. Get rid of the already meaningless divisions. Let’s throw everyone in the same boat, 1-32. The playoffs in this scenario get cut from 16-8 teams and it’s simply the teams with the 8-best records at the end of the regular season. Boom, now the regular season does mean something in the NBA.
The postseason is now three rounds as opposed to four, so it won’t take roughly nine years to play out, and the first round (1v8, 2v7, 3v6 and 4v5) is now a best-of-5 series, while the semi’s and finals are still best-of-7’s. Not only do you have a shorter postseason, you have a more action packed one, as the top-8 teams can’t avoid each other any way they turn.
National Hockey League – What’s the biggest detractor of the NHL? It’s that the average fan really doesn’t pay much attention to the regular season. Well, soccer keeps things spicy by having domestic cups. They’re basically mid-year tournaments which simply allow for more competition along the way. Here’s what we’re calling it – the President’s Trophy…it’s already a thing, we’re just re-branding it. Every team in the NHL goes into a random selection.
However, we have to wait for the league to add a 32nd team so we can have an even number. That’s another thing to fix, I mean what the hell NHL, why are you playing with an odd field?
Anyways, the random drawing selects 16 match-ups and voila, we have our tournament. Each round is a single game, knockout round. From 16-to-quarters-to-semis and finally the championship match.
Play begins on December 15th, semi’s are on Christmas, and the final takes the place of the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. And how do we accommodate for the extra time needed? We simply shorten the season from 82-74 games. (Eight games should buy roughly two week’s time). The cup winner not only gets extra silverware for the season, they get an automatic bid into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And if you get knocked out of the cup early? Well, then you get a nice little break in the middle of a grueling calendar.
Mark Paulette is the executive producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine