In professional sports, the first goal of any team is to make the playoffs. Making the playoffs ensures the right to play for the ultimate prize, a championship. However, there are some sports that take advantage of the playoffs to maximize profits and stretch things out. The most prominent culprits are the NBA and the NHL. Both organizations use roughly the same system for their playoffs, and I think it cheapens each league as a whole.
The biggest problem with their playoffs is the number of teams allowed to participate. Both allow 16 teams to make the postseason. By contrast, the NFL and MLB allow a total of 12 teams to compete. The problem is that too often, average teams at best a granted playoff spots. In recent years, there have been teams who finished with a below average record but still qualified for the playoffs. This is absurd and a complete was of the viewers time. Who wants to waste time to see a number 1 seed take on an 8 seed who couldn't even finish at .500? Basically, it appears to me to be a money grab by the owners. They know that people will fill the stadiums and buy the merchandise, so who cares if the first round product is of a sub par nature.
The next biggest problem is the length of these two playoffs. Both starts their playoffs in April, and conclude towards the end of June. That is almost two months of playoffs, certainly way too long. Each round has become a best of seven, making each series last over a week, easily. Not only does this prolong the playoffs, it also increases the chances the best team may get knocked off due to an unforeseen injury. Once again, the owners realize the profit potential of having these extra games, so it is hard to see them going away. It may take a serious injury or two before the leagues realize the lengthy toll playoffs take after an insane amount of games.
The are a few obvious changes that should be made, but probably will not be made because it will cost both the league and owners money. First, the leagues need to restrict the number of teams that qualify. There is not a valid argument as to why half the league should make playoffs. It is a privilege to play for a championship, not a right. It also cheapens the regular season because teams can clinch a spot weeks ahead of time, choosing to rest their players for the last few weeks, and it is the fans who suffer. Second, the first round should be shortened to a best of five series. This would drastically shorten the playoffs, and bring some much needed excitement to often boring first round games. Lastly, the leagues needs to find a better medium when it comes to mass viewership. People on the East Coast are regularly subjected to late night games coming from the West Coast. There are countless games that start at 10pm or later on the East Coast, and I am sure the ratings drop dramatically.
There is no quick solution, but something must be done. The NBA and NHL are at best the 3rd and 4th biggest sports organizations in the United States. They a niche sports at best, so they need to find a way to appeal more to the masses. Hockey is a very expensive sport to play, as well as being a cold weather sport. Unless you are tall, you probably only played basketball in pickup style games. These are reasons why these sports are not as big as football and baseball. So, its time to adapt or recognize your place in the sports stratosphere.