The Pros and Cons of Permanently Reducing the Number of NHL Games

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Permanently Reducing the Number of NHL Games

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    The NHL was on the brink of losing its season.

    From mid-September through the end of December, the NHL and the NHL Players Association were not making any progress in their negotiations.

    Gary Bettman was stubbornly holding his ground and it seemed like it would just be a matter of a few days into January before the NHL would cancel its season.

    However, the turning of the page represented a turning point. After months of acting like petulant children, the two sides decided to grow up and the season was saved.

    No, not an 82-game season, but a 48-game season. Short, sweet and exciting.

    Is that the ideal length of a regular season? No, but a shortened season does have some positives and negatives.

    Here's a look at the pros and cons of permanently reducing the number of games in the long season.

Pro: Every Game Counts

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    In a 48-game schedule like the one that the NHL is using in 2013, teams don't have an opportunity to hit their strides if they don't get off to a winning start.

    That's because there's no time to catch up. Teams have to hit the ice at full stride or they can fall behind quickly.

    There's no surprise, so that means every team must play hard every night. That's great for the fans who are paying big money for tickets. They get their money's worth.

Con: Not a True Picture

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    One of the benefits of a full season is that teams get to grow and develop over the course of 82 games.

    That means that the best teams are going to show themselves over the course of a long season. A hot start is nice and so is a midseason winning streak, but they are just parts of the season.

    They shouldn't define the season. You don't have a true picture of the regular season unless 82 games are played.

Pro: Rivalry Games

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    In a shortened season, rivalry games are going to be emphasized.

    Fans will get to see the Rangers play the Devils, the Canadiens face off against the Bruins and the Flyers go to war with the Penguins in the Eastern Conference.

    Western Conference fans will get to see the Blackhawks face the Blues, the Kings line up against the Ducks and the Canucks play the Flames.

    These are the games that have the highest rating when the schedule is announced and the ones that the fans want to see the most.

    These are games that are most meaningful in a shortened season.

Con: Limited Opponents

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    You may be living in St. Louis, but what if you are a Montreal Canadiens fan?

    You may live in Washington D.C., but what if your favorite team is the Los Angeles Kings?

    If you are a Vancouver Canucks fan, you may have been counting the days until the Boston Bruins come back to town so you can see your team get a bit of revenge for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

    The same things hold for Philadelphia Flyers fans who want to see their rivals from the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, the Chicago Blackhawks again.

    A reduced schedule takes away these opportunities.

Pro: Individual Focus

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    Individual players can be impacted by the shortened schedule.

    Just as there's not much time for a team to make up for a slow start, an individual can assert himself in a shortened season and become a dominant player.

    Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a solid player in the league for years, but he is the third-leading scorer in the league this year.

    Patrick Kane was a flashy player prior to this year, but he has been a superstar in 2013.

    Jake Voracek of the Flyers and Matt Moulson of the Islanders have also stepped up this season.

    Players can take huge steps to build their reputations in a short period of time.

Con: Injury Rehabilitation

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    A player's season can be ruined by an injury in a shortened season.

    In the video above, Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs broke his arm in the Maple Leafs' third game of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    A broken arm is usually not a season-wrecking injury, but it can cost a player two months of the schedule.

    In a shortened season, two full months is well over half the season. That's too much to lose for an important player.

    Also, when players are injured, they may want to rush their rehab and say they are ready because they don't want to miss any more games. That could put them at additional risk.

Pro and Con: Practice Schedule

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    In this shortened season, teams are playing games every other day on a regular basis.

    There are also a lot more back-to-back games scheduled than in a normal, 82-game schedule.

    As a result, there are less practices scheduled and many of them are shorter in duration.

    That's a positive, because coaches won't be able to overwork their players who are already being taxed because of the frequency of games.

    That's also a problem for coaches who want to correct problems and flaws in their teams. If you don't have sufficient practice time, your team is likely to continue making mistakes.