I’m not the only one who believes the NHL’s playoff push is in decline.
The league’s current standings are bad enough that even the most pessimistic projections don’t project it to get any better than it is now.
But it’s not the NHL that is in danger of imploding, as the league’s board of governors recently told its players that the current standings have been “not sustainable for years”.
“I don’t see a sustainable future,” NHLPA executive director Brian Burke told the players.
It’s not just the players, though.
The league’s ownership group has said the current roster is “not as competitive as it could be”.
And a recent survey conducted by the National Hockey League Players’ Association suggests the NHL might be in a serious crisis.
More: The survey, conducted by Nielsen, found that only 34% of players believe the league has a chance of winning a Stanley Cup in 2020, with the majority saying it is not a realistic expectation.
And the number of players who say they’re not optimistic about the NHL and the NHLPA’s prospects for reaching parity has grown since the survey was taken.
Players are not buying into the hype.
A survey released in June by the Players’ Union revealed that only 26% of those surveyed were convinced by the league and its executives about the direction it is headed.
And only 37% said they’re confident that they’ll be able to compete for a championship in the near future.
Yet, the NHL has done nothing to address the issue.
It’s not clear whether the NHL wants to continue to put its players at a competitive disadvantage, or if it just wants to avoid the perception that it is on the brink of a collapse.
A growing chorus of voices is also calling for the NHL to be allowed to operate in an orderly fashion and for more transparency from its leadership.
“The league is not in crisis,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last month.
“The NHL has not gone into hibernation.”
The problem for Burke and the board of directors is that the players don’t believe the NHL needs to go into hibernate.
They think the league needs to be able and willing to compete in the NHL.
Bettman has repeatedly argued that the NHL should stay in the playoffs for as long as it takes to win championships.
But he’s also made clear that the league will not be able simply to “stay the course” and that it will be able, if necessary, to change the format of the playoffs.
Burke, who is also the NHL deputy commissioner, has been an outspoken critic of Bettman’s handling of the league.
In September, he wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling on the commissioner to let the playoffs resume.
The next week, he said he would not support a proposal that would allow the NHL playoffs to be held in the Western Conference.
And he even went as far as to suggest that if the league didn’t want to make a decision on the format in the next two weeks, he would support it not making a decision.
The board of commissioners has responded by saying the board is “still very much committed to the league” and “is not looking to make any changes to the current format” or to the schedule in the foreseeable future.
Bettmen has defended the current schedule, saying it would still allow the teams to compete at their best.
But the fact that Burke and his colleagues are still talking about it is a sign that he’s worried about the league becoming a one-trick pony.
If the NHL decides to scrap the playoff format and go with a 12-team league in 2020 and 2022, the team with the best record will go on to the Stanley Cup finals.
But if the NHL doesn’t change its schedule, and if the teams with the most wins don’t compete for championships, then the team that wins the most regular-season games will become the champion.
And that could be disastrous.
The NHL will be looking for a winner, and the best way to get that winner is to win games, and that’s what the players want, Burke said last week.
“The only way to win is to go out and win games,” he said.
“That’s how you build a championship team.
And you’ve got to do it by winning games.”
A league in decline?
That’s not a given.
The NHL has never been in a position like this.
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