NHL’s stupid playoff format very definition of insanity

We know that it has been said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result. I’m not sure whether that definition applies to the NHL and its playoff format or to me for writing about just about annually for the last decade.

Both, I suspect.

I get that the NHL does nothing to provide rewards for success and everything in its power to level the playing field. The punitive hard cap, of course, is the essence of the league’s commitment to imposing restrictions that most significantly hamstring successful teams more quickly than others.

So too is this unbelievably unfair format under which two of the current best five teams in the league — fourth-overall Toronto and fifth-overall Tampa Bay — would meet in the first round. Meanwhile, either the NHL’s 10th-best or 11th-best team — Seattle and Vegas, respectively — would be guaranteed to advance to Round 2 if that matchup holds.

Those are inequities built into the 2-3 divisional first-round matchup. It happens just about every season. Last season, the Maple Leafs-Lightning first round matched the fourth-best and eighth-best teams. The format was different during the 2020-21 and 2019-20 COVID-impacted seasons. In 2017-18, the teams with the best records in the NHL, Nashville and Winnipeg, respectively, played in the second round, while Boston and Toronto hooked up in a 4-7 matchup in Round 1.

In 2016-17, second-overall Pittsburgh faced fourth-overall Columbus — yes, that is correct — in the first round. The year before that, the third-overall Blues met the fifth-overall Blackhawks in the opening round. That is not a quirk. It is the feature of the format.

It can’t be about rivalries because the NHL has done its best to make those into anachronisms. There is no legitimate reason for the NHL not to adopt the 1-8 conference reseeding format that existed from 1999 to 2013, except that would mean the end of brackets.

Yes, that’s it. Marketing brackets takes precedence over competitive integrity.

We know that if the NHL can legitimize, say, the 12th-overall and 14th-overall clubs getting to the conference finals, that would bolster the message that if you can just make it, you have a chance. That represents genetic engineering. It’s Ninth Avenue’s mantra.

But why in the world do club owners go along with this folly? Why would owners who spend to the limit, hire the correct people, present a Grade A product (year after year after year), endorse a system in which their team has an inordinate chance of getting a maximum of four home playoff dates?

Another season. Another tournament in which elite teams confront one another in the first round. Maybe the U.S. Open can present a first-round matchup between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz in August. That would make as much sense as the NHL playoff format.

Year after year. That’s not merely insane. It is…

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Read More: NHL’s stupid playoff format very definition of insanity 2023-01-29 03:05:00

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