On Playoff Format Quibbles


I should know better than to argue with a Ryan Lambert piece on Puck Daddy, but I have a bone to pick with his declaration of the NHL’s new playoff format as a failure two days into the playoffs.

Lambert spends a lot of time talking about how injuries are unavoidable but still ruin the playoffs, and then closes with the following:

But it could very easily have avoided this awful postseason system, which remains impossible to succinctly explain, by the way, and ensured that the Stanley Cup Playoffs were as good as they possibly could be.

The basic argument is that the divisional format and lack of reseeding means the “good” matchups happen early, with the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks meeting in a Pacific Division Semifinal that’s more deserving of a Western Conference Final.

Now, that ignores what the seeding actually would have been in the old format, as out East at least we still would have seen a Boston – Detroit and Pittsburgh – Columbus series.

But here’s the thing: Lambert implies that the previous playoff format was ideal when it wasn’t, either.

Win a weak division (as people always claimed the Red Wings did, beating up on the Central Division)? Automatically get at least the third seed, bumping a better team down. Ninth place in a strong Western Conference might have made the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

The only “fair” playoff format is single-table. All sixteen teams, regardless of conference, regardless of division championship.

Of course, then you still have the issue of beating up on weak divisions inflating a team’s record when compared to the rest of the league, so you have to eliminate the ability to do that, which means a completely balanced schedule. Which is never going to happen.

But, yeah, let’s go back to the old format, that’ll fix everything.


Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.

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