Now that both the NBA playoff’s and NHL playoff’s are each respectively complete, I would like to take the time to go over why the NHL playoffs are that much better than the NBA’s. After reading it, you might think these are biased views and you would be about 25% correct on that but that’s a lot less of a percentage than any NBA fan out there. As for any NHL fans out there reading it, it’s something other than “OH MY GOD JAROSLAV HALAK WAS TRADED!! ALERT THE PRESSES!!”. So, let’s get right into it.
I will be basing this on a few thing, but one thing I won’t be basing this on is television rating’s. The reason being is that I don’t think the Nielsen ratings are exactly precise numbers. Also, because most generic sport fans out there just flock to where the biggest crowd is, so they wouldn’t know what a good game was if Scattergories hit them over the head. I will be taking into consideration the level of play/competition, length of time from start to finish, flow of the game, strategy and star power.
Level of Play/Competition: I think my argument for this one will be quite clear. The Eastern Conference side of the NHL playoffs this year saw 3 of the bottom 4 teams advance to the second round (only the Pittsburgh Penguins, a 4 seed, advanced). The #1,#2 and #3 seeds all lost in the first round. Now, in the NBA on the Eastern side, all four of the top seeds advanced with only the #3 Atlanta Hawks and #6 Milwaukee Bucks series being competitive, as it went to seven games. That series was the only competitive one because both teams are terrible compared to everyone else, so a first round match up between the two was bound to go wire to wire. What happened to the Hawks in the next series? They got beaten by record numbers in four straight to the Orlando Magic. What happened on the hockey side of things? The number 8 seed Montreal Canadiens who were down to the #1 seeded Washington Capitals 3-1, fought back and wound up winning the series. I believe an 8 beating a 1 in a best of seven series has only happened one time in NBA history when Golden State beat Dallas a few years ago.
In the NHL, this has actually come to be a common occurrence since the play of the NHL is so much more balanced than in the NBA. Also, the heart factor of the players is a lot greater than that of an NBA players. In the NBA you can see it in a players eyes that when they go down 3-0 or 3-1, they just give up. In hockey, it’s balls to the wall every game no matter what because even if the series is out of reach, they still have their pride on the line and that’s a big deal to a hockey player. There is one argument I could make for the NBA in terms of overall competition—the first round Lakers/Thunder series. However, upon further review of it, if you take Kevin Durant off that team than the Lakers sweep or win in five so I’m not even going to dignify it with analysis.
Level of Competition: NHL
This is the longest category, but it is a two part whammy. On to the overall level of play between both sports. I will say this much in the NBA’s favor, when an individual player goes off it is fun to watch– no doubt about it. When Lebron or Kobe takes over a game it’s just as impressive as when a baseball player knocks in a ton of RBI’s or when a RB shoulders the load for his entire team in football. However, there is a big drop off in overall talent from the amateur level of play in basketball to the professional. The difference in the level of play from basketball’s amateur level to it’s professional level is staggering. The NBA is far and away in another world from college or European play.
The benefit of hockey being much more of a global game than basketball works in the NHL’s favor. When a team drafts a player in the NHL, he isn’t necessarily put on the team right away because there are places that can adequately develop that teams investment. The NBA has nothing like that, which hurts their overall level of play. There is no doubt that the NBA has some of the greatest athletes in the world, but their game as a whole suffers when players are entering the league and are not ready for it’s demands. That is why the NHL has an overall better level of play than the NBA because people are coming into the league constantly that can measure up to guys that have already been there for years.
Level of Play: NHL
Length of the Playoffs: NHL 58 days NBA 62 days
Not much to talk about regarding this as they are both similar in the amount of time that they take to complete. I will say this much, the fact that the NBA playoffs schedule is a set deal, isn’t bad because you know exactly the days in which games will be and you can plan accordingly. However, the long length between games in the NBA is atrocious. I just don’t see why these teams need two days off in the middle of a series and they got two days off twice through out the seven game series. But a knock to the NHL way of scheduling things is how, for instance, The Blackhawks sweep the Predators but they have to wait until all of the other series are over to play the next round, even if their next opponent has already been determined. I have heard from people who don’t normally watch hockey say they feel the playoffs are too long and hockey in June just doesn’t seem right. Well, I agree to an extent on that. I feel like the NHL needs to make their playoff system go by in a more timely manner, so that way the Stanley Cup Finals can get the attention it deserves while the NBA is amidst their respective conference finals.
Length of the Playoffs: Push
Flow of the Game:
This is hands down going to the NHL here. Do not even try to make an argument for the game of basketball having a better flow to it’s game than hockey’s. Any time I watched an NBA playoff game this year, I swear the final 5 minutes of the game took a half hour to complete. With all of the time-out’s that get called, the intentional fouling, the turnovers, the technical’s—it kills the end of a game as far as the entertainment value is concerned. The NHL on the other hand is consistent through out a game. There may be a stretch where the teams get chippy with one another and penalties get called, but the clock is always ticking down pretty much, even during those power play opportunities. Yes, the end of a hockey game can see a few puck freezes from a goalie, but only because the team that is trailing is desperate to come back and have just unleashed a fury of offense, which is as exciting as it gets. The end of a basketball game? That contains about 100 substitutions, 25 free throw attempts, 14 time outs from each team and all the while the clock stops on every last one of them. You get one timeout in hockey, you have to leave the players that are on the ice out there when you get an icing called on you, and any substitution that does take place gets done on the fly…no whistle needed. I don’t even need to get into the pace of live play because it is about 100 times faster than that of a basketball game. Hockey is played at speeds a basketball player couldn’t even reach in a Bentley, so don’t try to tell me the flow of a playoff basketball game is better than hockey’s because there is no comparison.
Flow of the Game: NHL
Strategy…I respect the strategy of a basketball game because it shows intelligence, intangibles, but most of all whoever comes out on top proved to be the smarter man of the night. In basketball, your bench is needed like no other sport. Hockey, whoever you dress is going to play in that game, so we don’t really have players coming into the game off the “bench”. However, the important times of an NBA playoff game where a coach needs to take out one of his stars because he is getting into foul trouble, he needs to replace him with someone capable enough to get his team a W. Also, in basketball players are out there for a long time, in the NHL players are on the ice in spurts for 45 seconds to a minute at a time because of all the energy they use up in a short span. That’s why it is so important to choose when to take a player out and who to replace him with in an NBA game, it carries repercussions unlike in a hockey game. The strategy used in an NHL playoff game is really determined before the game itself. The lines you set, the goalie you start (your last goalie could have had a bad game, do you stick with him or do you ride it out with him?) and which player will you have shadow their best player or who you think they need to shadow based on who has the hottest stick at that point. Hockey has a lot of little things that need to be looked at before a game because once the game begins it really is out of your hands for the most part, as a coach. The coach’s job is to have them ready for that game and by ready I mean able to with stand any situation that befalls them. The strategy between an NBA playoff game and an NHL playoff game is very different. An NBA roster only has so many options as far as personnel, and NHL roster has a multitude of players and the coach has to choose who is best suited for certain situations. I was going to give this one to the NBA…but the two contrast so much in style, it will have to be another push.
Star Power: This is an easy one. Who makes more money? Who get’s more sponsors? Who get’s more publicity? Who is talked about more? I don’t like it but I have to admit when it’s the truth. The NBA absolutely has more star power. The NHL’s best thing they have going right now is Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin. It’s a great rivalry and up there as one of the best in sports right now. But, the NBA has more than just two faces right now and it shows in the marketing. I am fully aware of the NHL players that deserve to be given the credit they have earned, but the reality of it is that it is a sport right now that struggles to keep people interested. The Olympics were great for the sport this year, as well as the Stanley Cup Finals and hopefully that will get players like Steven Stamkos, Alexander Semin, Patrick Marleau, Henrik Sedin (just to name a few) up there with Sid and Alex. Right now, however, the likes of Kobe, Lebron, D-Wade, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose etc. have this part of the playoffs debate on lock down.
Star Power: NBA
There you have it folks, my breakdown of why the NHL playoffs are so much better than the NBA. It was actually a little closer than I thought it would be because I honestly looked at the NBA playoffs respectively for the most part. But, if you read this and are thinking that my analysis was just too biased then that’s alright too. The bottom line is that I looked at a few categories that factor into both the NHL and NBA respectively and compared them between each other the best I knew how. The NHL will come out on top in my opinion every time because it is just a superior sport. The conditioning, the skill, the mental part of the game, the physicality of the sport as well as the grind that is the Stanley Cup playoffs will always top the NBA playoffs. It is just a damn shame that only a handful of American’s realize this as opposed to those brilliant Canadian’s to the north.