How NHL Players Will Change the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Expansion of the Stanley Cup playoffs is a hill to die upon. My last breath will be spent uttering the words “Play…in…round”.

I’ve explained my philosophy and procedures before in this column, but I repeat: There are now 32 teams in the NHL. In the pre-Gary Bettman expansion period, 16 teams advanced from 21 to the post-season. We’ve gone from over 76% of the league making the playoffs to just 50% after the Seattle Kraken joined the family. The NBA, MLB, and NFL have expanded their post-season fields in recent years while the NHL remains stagnant, leaving money on the table.

The NHL makes no secret of how important the Stanley Cup playoffs are to its product. It’s like March Madness: Regular fans may not roam during the regular season, but they do turn up in the post-season tournament. New fans are created as you follow the joy and pain of the playoff round. Meanwhile, star players whose league struggles to market outside the hockey bubble are getting the most intense spotlight on the sports media.

Why not invite more teams to this party? Expand the tournament to 20 teams, 10 from each conference. Start with a playing round with seeds #7 and 10, to mimic the NBA model. These teams advance to the original 16-team tournament that we all find sacred, and we’re off.

In a recent NHL Player media tour, I asked a dozen players: What’s your ideal Stanley Cup playoff format and are you considering expanding the field now that there are 32 franchises?

What I Found: These NHL Players Will Probably Agree to Increase Security before they agreed to expand the postseason. But they are intrigued by a smaller tweak to the current Stanley Cup playoff format:

Keep the wild card. Arc scraping.

“That’s a good question. I like half of the league outside of it. I’ve been out of it a lot, and you’re begging to get in. But I like it the way it is,” Carolina Hurricanes Center Jordan Stahl He said.

“But personally, I’m pretty old school. I like the old format. One through 8.”

The NHL has had a wild card format since the 2013-14 season, a byproduct of its reorganization, sending the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference, and the Winnipeg Jets to the Western Conference and reshaping the league. 30 teams into four divisions. The top three teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, while two teams from each conference also advance to the postseason.

One of the keys to this format was to create an arc that the post-season would follow rather than changing matches after each round based on the highest remaining seeds versus the lowest etc. This closed in Division #2 versus Series #3 in the first round in every postseason. This match has produced some great hockey, such as the classic 2014 San Jose Sharks game against the Los Angeles Kings and the amazing 2019 movie on the Vegas Golden Knights; seven players in 2016 between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks; And two Toronto Maple Leafs versus Boston Bruins series that Leafs fans love to omit from the record.

“I think class competitions are fun to watch and fun to play in. They always lead to good hockey,” Robert Thomas Blues said.

The first to No. 8 format, which the NHL applied from 1993-94 until the wild card was adopted, created some great hockey as well. It also provided more variety, without having two teams pitted against each other every season. This static seeding can be somewhat detrimental to the team’s Stanley Cup ambitions – for example, the Maple Leafs would have avoided the Bruins in each of those first-round defeats had there been a #1 to #8 format instead.

Of the players I spoke with, many were open to getting back into coordination.

“I actually thought, when I was growing up, it was so cool when they had the seeding from 1 to 8. Maybe it’s less playing in the divisions. Because sometimes the divisions are stacked up,” Jack Hughes New Jersey Devils said. “I don’t know. I just hope we make the playoffs one of these years.”


The NHL dealt with the same kind of inequality before adopting the 1 to 8 format, when four teams from each division qualified. Some really cool teams that finished fifth in their stacked divisions would have waltzed in if they had played on a weaker team. In 1987-1988, for example, the New York Rangers finished fifth in Patrick’s division, but had a higher total score than five other teams in the playoffs. that happens.

Minnesota Wilde General Manager Bill Guerin played in both the Divisional format and the 1-8 format, while building the current roster of the Wild Card qualifiers.

Put it at the bottom to go back to seed 1-8, keeping your current wild card qualification.

“I’d like to go back to 1 to 8,” he said. “I like the wild card to qualify for the playoffs, but then I’d like to go back to 1 to 8,” he said.

One look at Wild Last Postseason and you can see why. They ranked second in the Central Division with 113 points. Under the current format, that meant a first-round encounter with the Blues (109 points), which eliminated them in six matches. Under the 1-8 format, and assuming the Class Champions took first and second places, Wild would have met the 6th ranked Kings (99 points), who were eliminated from the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

While this might be an easier path, Guerin said the 1-8 format doesn’t guarantee anything for higher seed.

“There’s a lot of parity in the league now,” he said. “Even if you go back to 1-8, you have to play a good team.”

Here we get to the global mindset shared by all the players who have expressed their opinion in the format of the final: it doesn’t matter what the seed is or how many teams are involved. Just win games.

“I know some teams are like, ‘We always play with this team and it’s more difficult in the first round,'” Thomas Hertle He said. “But if you’re in the playoffs and you want to win the Stanley Cup, you have to beat everyone anyway.

“For me, there’s no excuse for who we play in the playoffs. If it’s like, ‘We should have someone easier in the first round,’ for me, it doesn’t matter. It’s the playoffs.”

Great, so we should have more teams in the playoffs, right? If it doesn’t matter who you play?

No, Hertel said. “I like how it is now.”

In fact, none of the players I spoke with were in favor of expanding the National Hockey League stadium beyond 16 teams. Even those who might benefit from it.

“No, I think it’s good now,” Forward Jared McCann Kraken said. “It makes it competitive. It makes it more interesting when it comes to the difference between two teams.”

Rangers defenseman Jacob Troup echoed that. “It’s hard to do the qualifiers,” he said. “I think sixteen players are good. I think the qualifiers are tough enough and long enough.”

Kings Center Philip Danault It won’t change it either. “I think it’s great. Sixteen is good. If you achieve more, it will be a longer season. Unless you are a better of three or a best of five.”

For a brief moment, I thought I had spied on some common ground. Maybe a shorter cycle allows for more difference?

I ran that past Cam Atkinson from the Philadelphia Flyers — a team that could really, really use an expanded annex stadium for the foreseeable future — and take it in a different direction.

“I like the fact that half the teams, because it’s hard to get into the playoffs,” he said.

Then Atkinson paused for a moment.

“But maybe the final should be the best of seven, and the other three rounds should be the best of five. A little shorter. Fewer players being cheated on. People want to watch the best of the best? Do the guys play healthier?” he said. .

it’s interesting. It’s counterintuitive to the war of attrition that makes the Stanley Cup playoffs unique, and in no way supports my thesis, but it is intriguing.

Perhaps, eventually, there will be debate about a shorter post-season in which more than 50% of the league’s franchises are involved. Some players seemed a little curious about it, but they aren’t ready to have that discussion right now.

They seem ready to change the current format, however, and it would be wise for the NHL to listen to them.

Let’s hold the card and go back to 1-8 at each conference. It’s a fair system that adds value to the regular season and some have welcomed the unpredictability of the post-season.

But please, for the love of Lord Stanley: Re-arc after every round, including the last four teams in the conference finals. If rivalries are the lifeblood of the playoffs, then let the two of them meet for the cup, geography will be damned.

Oh look, new hill to die…

Jersey Bean of the Week

Let’s never say that New York is not a baseball city.

As far as we know, the nearest wing is Rangers Alexis Lavrinier You get to show baseball on the top deck card. This is a jacket It falls under the Jersey Fall “Cross-Sport Infiltration Exception” rule, which provides for an exception for hockey names and numbers on jerseys of other sports as a method of covert marketing

Video of the week

In case you missed it, the “multi-award winning digital marketing service provider for the global regulated online gambling industry” has published a ranking of the top and least attractive NHL coaches.

If you’re curious: Edmonton Oilers’ Jay Woodcroft ranked first overall and Washington Capitals’ Peter Laviolette ranked last, but we’re not quite sure what methodology for the study ranked Calgary Flames curmudgeon Darryl Sutter second overall.

The existence of this list was justified when Bruce Boudreaux, coach of the Vancouver Canucks, was informed that he was ranked 16The tenth Overall at a recent press conference – the perfect starting point for the most self-deprecating coach building a comic pyramid:

puck titles

From your ESPN friends

I loved the NHL Future Powers Rankings project. I think you would too, provided you’re not a fan of the Black Hawks.

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