Y’know… reading Ottawa blogger Trevor Shackles’ well written piece on fixing the NHL playoff structure got me to thinking. Does the NHL playoffs need “fixing?” I say no… I mean all the complaining about the NHL playoff system is kinda interesting but I think it is just fine the way it is. But to see all the complaining, I can only assume that someone, somewhere, wrote on a couple of stone tablets that the best team must always make the conference final… forever and ever Amen.
What a steaming pile of crap.
The rivalries that are being built out of this format are worth it. Before this season, I really didn’t give a hoot when the Preds played Winnipeg… after last season’s epic playoff showdown, I have October 11, January 17, March 1 and March 23rd circled in gold on my calendar. The Avalanche have been a “meh” game for years, now… after a great first round series… I can’t wait for them to hit town on November 27th. The seeds of rivalries were sown last playoff season and the potential to grow them is very real.
The current playoff system rewards you for winning a division, rewards stronger divisions by an opportunity to get more playoff slots in the division and frankly, has really helped build some regional rivalries, not only in the playoffs, but the regular season as well. Is the current system perfect? No. I don’t think that a division winner should have to travel across two time zones to play a West Coast wild card team, but that is a small quibble that has more to do with geography than the design of the playoffs. In this observer’s opinion… the benefits far outweigh the detriments.
In playoff years since the system has been in place we have seen California teams play each other multiple times, two freeway series in the first year as LA took on both Anaheim and San Jose on their way to the Cup… under the old system that just didn’t happen very much, if at all. Since the new system the California teams have played each other in five different series. The Pacific Division battles have been epic.
While Pittsburgh and Washington have never really liked each other… it was the divisional play, both regular season and consistent playoff meetings that has turned that rivalry into a blood feud. The Metro has helped Columbus build some bad blood between their divisional opponents. This system has been good for rivalry building.
The big issue in this seems to be that some pundits don’t like seeing great matchups early in the playoffs. It almost like a rule needs to set that Washington and Pittsburgh should only meet in the conference final. Would the Caps/Pens series or the Preds/Jets series be better if they were in the conference final? Nah…
These folks kvetch about President’s Trophy winners not having an easy path to the conference final, but first round upsets are a hallmark of the playoffs in almost every sport.
Wait… what? Hold on a minute… should there be an “easier” path to the conference final?
Where is it written that a benefit of being the best regular season team should be a red carpet directly to the final? That concept is simply ludicrous! The benefit of winning the President’s Trophy is home ice throughout the playoffs… period. The fact that the President’s Trophy winner has the best chance to win the Cup out of any seeded position is proof, proof that the benefit earned in the regular season give a significant advantage… there is no need for more.
Playoff matchups make rivals. Nashville’s rivalry with Chicago didn’t really ripen until the sweep of 2017. Since the Predators and Red Wings were separated into different conferences, the passion of the Detroit / Nashville rivalry has faded.
Once Seattle is officially added and the league is at 32 teams, there may be another realignment of divisions and playoffs. I hope not… because two divisions of eight teams in each conference makes the perfect divisional play down… top 4 in each division fight it out. Division winners meet in the conference final. Simple, clean and will drive these budding rivalries to even more intensity.
The current system is working… the ratings show it, the matchups continue to be compelling… just leave it alone.
- Really funny Twitter exchange as the Ryan Johansen / Ryan Kesler feud heated up again on Sunday. Just proving that Johansen has his feet propped up on Kelser’s kitchen table, enjoying a cup of coffee and a donut as his residency inside Kelser’s head continues.
- Interesting column from Greg Wysynski on ESPN.com asking what teams will crack 100 points next season. He does call Nashville as one of them.
- Speaking of columns… really good column from Jeremy K. Gover on 102.5 the Game’s website on bringing back neutral site games.
- The NHL is charging to watch practice during the Global Series in Finland this year… wow…
- A one year deal for William Karlsson for 5.25 million. A risky move for Vegas. Sure, that’s a bargain for a 40+ goal scorer, but if he does it again this season, his demands will rightfully double. Bears watching.
- The Jeff Skinner trade to Buffalo is one of those that will be pointed to when the Sabres make the playoffs next April.
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