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WWYDW: Playoff Formats

*Author’s note: with the news of Jason Botchford’s passing, it didn’t feel right to publish this and bump Cat and Petbugs’ wonderful eulogy down the site in service of a weekly column.

As we approach the third round of the playoffs, it’s a good time to take stock of how we got here, and the upsets that happened along the way.

It’s been compelling hockey, to be sure; but it’s also re-ignited debates about the current playoff format and whether or not the NHL does enough to stack the deck in favour of teams who perform well in the regular season. What changes, if any, would you like to see to the playoff format?

 

Last week I asked: Do you think the Canucks need to add a President of Hockey Operations? If so, who would you like to see in that role?

Fred-65: 

You’d have to think it’s a slam dunk that a knowledgable person of sober reflection is badly needed. There seems to be little depth to the thinking of Vcr management who put more store on reacting to code blue than sitting down and drawing up a long term plan. The fact that Aquaman did not speak to various candidates means little, now if he were to say no one be it direct or through an intermediary spoke to Mr. Lombardi that would mean something. Aquaman is simply playing with words. Vcr badly needs a person who can provide a sober reflection. It seems to me that the current management simply put out fires. Now if we could lure John Davidson or simialr away from their current situation and getb the train back on the tracks that would be terrific not only for the club but maybe help for JB

ikillchicken:

Yes they should hire somebody, but no, I’m not going to offer up a specific name. In fact, I’d be happiest if, whoever they hire, I’ve never heard of them in my life. Teams tend to endlessly recycle the same executives, constantly favoring big names with ample experience and some kind of past success. If you actually look at most of their track records though, they’ve got a longer history of failure than actual success. So forget all that. Just focus on hiring somebody smart without a lot of hockey baggage who is capable of making rational, informed, business decisions based on the info they are provided.

Goon:

Re-hire Mike Gillis as POHO. Regardless of what you think of the job he’d do (I personally think he’d be great, but I know many around here disagree) watching the Vancouver media lose their minds would be completely and totally worth it.

This is the same reason I want to see Gillis hired in Edmonton.

Billy Pilgrim:

How about Ralph Krueger? Despite his time with the Oilers, he is a good hockey mind. His time as Chairman of Southampton FC (English Premiership) gives him experience in perhaps the biggest sports league in the world. As a bonus, he is considered as a leadership expert in his role with the World Economic Forum. Bit of a renaissance guy. Could do worse.

wohojowitz:

First up is why Aquilini is commenting on media speculation. If he goes down that rabbit hole he will be issuing denials a dozen times a day. So now it appears that not only the Canucks need a press agent to try and control the message but Aquilini needs one too. The most recent example is Benning getting off an airplane in Utica and within 20 minutes telling everyone that all is well but not dispelling the speculations of dysfunction. Aquilini does not want strong leadership as it undermines his authority, weakens his control and all the viable candidates know that already. The good ones don`t get manipulated so easily.

Brooks recently wrote a column on the Rangers search for a president, what the job entails and why John Davidson is the perfect candidate considering his track record in St. Louis and Columbus.

One interesting example is Cam Neely who started out about as experienced as Trevor Linden but has since done an excellent job. It could be a senior advisor like Harry Sinden is what Trevor needed.

Forever 1915:

We need a Director of Professional Scouting (DoPS) to mirror Judd Brackett rather than another POHO. According to the Canucks’ org chart, we have 17 amateur scouts plus Brackett vs. 4 professional scouts and no director. We’d be better off if we had a good DoPS who can give honest advice so we can avoid more bad trades and UFA signings.

j2daff:

I’m torn between saying we need to take as much time as it takes to find the right POHO, because this team needs to start getting it right even if that’s another year or more and saying we need to do it ASAP before Benning overpays on another contract or makes another hockey trade that hurts the future of this team.

In all seriousness Benning may be able to continue as Canucks GM if he has a little help and a little guidance in the area’s he obviously has issues in. The right assistant GM could help negotiate better contracts (and possibly trades) as he has typically overpaid in both term and $$$. A POHO could also hold him accountable (Jim you could sign that guy for half of that or for half the term) and give him direction; Jim why don’t you get on the phone with TO and TB and see if we cannot benefit in helping them out of their cap problems. Heck even a little more vision would help, there is no way they should not have been trying most of last season to get Edler to waive his no trade clause instead of waiting until the last second. Also if the rumors are true about the owner meddling they need someone to be able to straight up say, “you hired me to run this team so let me do it or let me go.”

All that said maybe a better GM would do the same….?

Holly Wood:

How about Ron Francis. He did a very good job rebuilding the entire Carolina organization. The ECHL Florida Everblades win their division, The AHL Charlotte Checkers win their division and now the Hurricanes are making noise. If I remember correctly he was fired due to differences of opinion with the owner but his performance speaks for itself. Could be the President the organization needs to continue moving forward.

  • No need to change anything. Just because Toronto doesn’t match up well with Boston should not mean that the whole format is wrong. There is parity in the NHL. None of the top teams were without flaws. Injuries and suspensions change things. Deal with it.

    • The way that Leaves team is constructed, and the way the NHL officiates the playoffs, Toronto isn’t really going to match up well with anybody as thing currently stand. Columbus, Carolina and the Islanders would all have beaten the Leaves as well. Hire all the executives you want, but the game is played on the ice.

  • I’d prefer going back to a straight 1-8 (1/2 being first in their division, 3-8 being based on points & wins alone), so weaker divisions aren’t rewarded with automatic playoff berths. A couple times since we’ve moved to this format we’ve seen five teams from one division get in, and much weaker teams in the other division afforded home ice advantage. Otherwise it’s fine.

  • The playoff format is just fine as is. Teams that start slow have 5 months to adjust, coach, trade and develop to get better. The quality of a team can change dramatically over the course of the season. Good teams that plateau and coast into the playoffs get beat sometimes. Good, keeps it exciting.

    Salary caps create parity and a 7 game series means winning is not the random luck of one game. Good, depth, determination, effort and quality coaching play major roles, as it should be.

    The only thing I would like to see change is greater rule consistency between the regular season and playoffs.

  • If the league purports to having concerns about travel then the present playoff system is fine as is. It should be divisional/geographical as present rivalries suggest. No matter how they might want to tweak it a team still has to win 16 games to take the Stanley Cup.

  • Both 1 – 8 and divisional have the chance for lots of travel with the wildcard. Vancouver could have to travel to Dallas or St. Louis in the first round. Since that’s a possibility for some, I say make it a possibility for all. I’d even out the schedule and go 1 – 16.

  • For those of us old enough to remember, there was no funner time to watch the playoffs than the 80’s & early 90’s when there was only 21 – 24 teams and 16 made the playoffs. They seeded back then entirely by division 1st vs 4th, 2nd vs 3rd in each of the 4 divisions.
    Despite a bunch of really mediocre teams making the playoffs and the Canucks being fodder for the powerhouse Alberta teams, they were fantastic.
    They played each other 8 times a year and then again in the playoffs. The hatred was real and the rivalries were amazing. Montreal vs Quebec or Boston, Philly vs Pitt, NY vs NY, etc. Edmonton & Calgary were the 2 best teams in the NHL and they played every year in the second round.
    Thats what the NHL is trying to recapture here, those kind of head to head yearly playoff match-ups because that is how great rivalries are born.
    That said, with 31 teams and cross over wild cards, you will never recreate that kind of anmosity league wide. There will be a few like Boston & Toronto or Wash vs Pitt but there just won’t be those yearly meetings except amongst those teams occupying the top for a few years (we all remember Van & Chicago) so this format really doesn’t have the same appeal as the past -on a side note why do so many want to try to make things the way they were instead of trying to make things better moving forward but I digress.
    With all that said, I really don’t see any reason to change the structure. Can’t beat a rival (looking at you TO) get better. The league is cyclical and at some point the weak will be strong and vice versa changing which divisions are stronger than others. During late 90’s & 00’s the Western Conference was far superior to the Eastern, Eastern conference teams had much easier paths to the playoffs and to the finals it was what it was and it is what it is.
    I’m not much for excuses, if you want to get out of your division beat the teams in front of you, don’t whine to make your path easier, no sympathy.

    • Part of the animosity that occurred back in the 80’s disappeared with free agency. Players rarely switched teams back and didnt know each other. Now they move around frequently and have friends throughout the league.

  • They should first knock off about 7 games from the regular season so everyone is fresher.

    Secondly, I think I’d go 1-16 as that is the fairest for teams in the top seeding. They earned the points so they should get the weakest competition.

    If that’s not up for discussion, then go 1-8 on each side

    Now here is the zany, wild idea:

    Every time you advance and vanquish your foe in the playoffs, you get to take one person from the other team on your journey. Just for the playoffs. At the end of the year, they will return to their team.

    That would make the teams much better and fresher. They don’t need to trim down their roster, they just get an extra player and thus the quality o the team goes up and so does the entertainment value as they shore up their greatest need

  • Keep it the same with the exception of: East Wildcards go to the west and West Wildcards go to the east.
    That way we have the potential for: Example. Montreal/Toronto playing Vancouver/Winnipeg before the finals.
    Maybe a Western WC team wind the East??

  • It might be really good to think of new/different formats, if only to make the regular season mean more. We fetishize the Stanley Cup and playoff hockey and there’s lots of stuff I love about it but when you think about it it’s still a little crazy that we assign more value to a max of 28 games over two months versus 82 games over six months. What is harder to do — be consistent over the long haul or catching fire in a short series? We’ve seen so much of the latter — TB and Calgary both had their ups and downs over the season but were generally excellent. Then they run into hot goalies and get some bad breaks over a few games and they’re gone. Were the Bruins a better overall team than us in 2011? No way. And the ‘playoff rules’ for refereeing are also absurd because they clearly favor certain styles of play.

    I think it would be better to have a shorter regular season and/or move to multiple tournament formats. That’s what the NBA is considering so that you actually get your money’s worth if you’re going to a regular season game and you don’t just have lots of people sit out or try not to get injured or just have nothing to play for in February.

    I’d love to see the NHL experiment with a multiple mini tournaments. I don’t know what exactly that would be but maybe something that gets rid of the fillers — the All Star game or World Championships and offers something else. Maybe other kinds of mini tournaments with less overall games in the regular season and a Memorial Cup style battle of champions?

  • Drop the wild card . . . 4 divisions, 1v 4, then Conference Finals, then East v West for the Stanley Cup. Simple, fantastic perpetual rivalries. Divisions mean the most again and no quirky crossover travel for west teams. If there are weak divisions and strong divisions, so be it, it will all even out over time.

  • Rank all the teams by regular season finish.
    1 plays 16, 2 vs 15 etc.
    To mitigate travel concerns any series where the teams are 2 or 3 time zones apart would use a 2-3-2 format.
    Series featuring teams in the same time zone or one time zone apart would maintain the 2-2-1-1-1 format.