Hey Bettman, Please Go Back To The 1 vs 8 Playoff Format | Tony X
Bovada guest writer, Tony X, takes a look at the upcoming NHL playoffs – be sure to follow Tony on Twitter @SoIoucity.
We are now entering into the final stretch of the season with each team sitting around 60 games played. It’s time to start looking at one of the most exciting playoffs in sports, the NHL Playoffs. Everything is amplified in the playoffs which makes it that much better, including faster gameplay, bigger hits, and harder checks.
Every possession of the puck is magnified, because one mistake and Connor McDavid has just deked your entire defense and made your goalie look like Velma searching for her glasses like on Scooby Doo!
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As exciting as the Stanley Cup playoffs are, there is one major flaw – the forced divisional playoff matchups. Currently, the top three teams in each of the two divisions from both conferences will make the playoffs, and the other two teams in each conference will be Wildcard teams, giving us 16 teams total.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Look deeper into it and you see that the format is forced to try and artificially create rivalries instead of setting them up naturally. The top team in the conference must play the Wildcard team with the least amount of points. Smart, right? If you’re the top team, that’s how it should be in order to be rewarded for being the top team. But that’s not the case if you finish second or third in the division. No matter the record or points, the second and third team in each division must play each other in the first round. Now, I will go into this unbiased, but let’s just take a look into the 2021-2022 playoffs:
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The Central Division brought in 5 of the 8 teams in the Western Conference:
- Avalanche – 119 points
- Wild – 113 points
- Blues – 109 points
- Stars – 98 points
- Predators – 97 points
The Pacific Had 3 Teams in the playoffs:
- Flames – 111 Points
- Oilers – 104 Points
- Kings – 99 points
The best team in the conference, the Colorado Avalanche, played the worst team in the conference, the Nashville Predators, which is how it should be when you are the best team in the conference/division.
The next best team in the entire conference was the Minnesota Wild sitting at 113 points. Logic dictates that they would play the second worst team in the conference, the Stars, but no, that’s not the case here. The Wild were second in the conference, but also second in their division, so they must play the third place team– the 109 point St.Louis Blues!
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Meanwhile, the Oilers with 104 points played the 99 point LA Kings in the first round.
None of this should happen just because the league thinks it’s a good idea to force divisional play in the first round of the playoffs. Changes need to be made. Teams play 82 games over the course of seven months. Where you finish in the standings at the end of the season should determine your opposing team regardless of the division.
The NHL could come up with a more balanced schedule where teams play each opponent a common amount of times and have fewer division games to make it fair.
Looking at the upcoming playoffs, my proposed changes wouldn’t actually change anything right now in the East, but this just seems to be a case of “a broken clock being right twice a day.”
It’s a different story in the Western Conference, however. If seeded 1 vs. 8, the second place Kings would take on a Stanley Cup-defending (but weaker this year) 7th place Avs team that has only 76 points in 63 games. We’d also see the matchup of the 4th place Minnesota Wild vs. the 5th place Seattle Kraken, which would lead to four teams having different roads to the Cup Finals in the West.
Although the East seems set right now, with each team having anywhere from 15-18 games left, there still could be some shuffling around in the standings. So now that I got this off my chest, let’s just sit back and enjoy the playoffs with the hope that maybe one day the league will shift back to the better format.
Tony X’s Favorite Playoff Bets:
Boston Bruins to Win the Eastern Conference +180
Dallas Stars to win the Central Division -120
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