The current NHL playoff format is just plain stupid.
Someone (Gee, I wonder who?) decided that “rivalries” were the key to huge playoff audiences. Which means we will see the same small group of teams facing each other in the early rounds year after year. These teams already meet frequently during the regular season. Repetitive matchups tend to get real old, real fast.
You don’t need to “create” intensity for the NHL playoffs. The very nature of the game, in combination with the ramped-up tempo and physical play that comes naturally once the playoffs begin, is all that is required. Halfway through game-one of most series, the players begin to hate each other. And it grows from there.
Even worse, because divisional parity rarely exists, some of the league’s top teams end up facing each other far too soon. A highly skilled team from a powerful division could find themselves golfing many weeks sooner than a mediocre team competing in a weak division. There is no reward for being dominant during the regular season.
The NHL should simply rank the two conferences from top to bottom, and proceed with matchups featuring 1st/8th, 2nd/7th, 3rd/6th and 4th/5th. Not only does this prevent the best teams from facing off too soon, it also provides variety in the matchups from year to year.
But no, instead we hear chatter about allowing some non-playoff teams to participate in a special “play-in” tournament that would allow the winner to back-door their way into the playoffs after all.
Here’s two problems with that idiocy:
Greedy NHL owners aren’t going to shorten the regular season. Adding an extra round of post-season play, simply to reward teams that suck, guarantees a Stanley Cup final will be played in late June.
Rather than adopt a change that rewards success, Gary Bettman seems poised to bring in a change that rewards incompetence.