The current playoff format is bad for hockey.
Does anyone miss the old NHL format where the division winners got a top seed, followed by the next best teams, the high seed versus the low seed playoff format?
The current NHL playoff format is in place to promote rivalries, however, it is doing the exact opposite. Many NHL rivalries are already set in stone. Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, Boston-Toronto, Minnesota-Winnipeg, San Jose-Anaheim have already built strong bonds while Vegas-Los Angeles will develop quickly with the close proximity of the two cities. Those rivalries and many more won’t benefit from first round playoff match ups. They would, however, benefit from Conference Finals match ups.
The rivalries that need help developing aren’t getting playoff assistance. Below are three major issues with the current NHL playoff format.
The current playoff format also doesn’t reward a successful season. Toronto finished the year with five more points than Pittsburgh, yet had to play a tough first-round match up at Boston, while the Penguins received home ice advantage against the Flyers.
For Nashville (the best team in hockey) the road to the Stanley Cup is more difficult than it is for Vegas. The Golden Knights hosted 100 point San Jose, while the Predators had to battle the 114 point Jets.
NHL’s natural rivalries are already strong, and a major reason for realignment was to ignite new rivalries. What better way to ignite new rivalries than playoff hockey? If natural rivals would meet in the later rounds, that will strengthen those bonds, as opposed to meeting in the first round.
The 1-8 seed format rewards a successful season while giving the lower seeds a tougher path to the Stanley Cup.
What fans should have seen in the East
What fans should have seen in the West
This format would indeed create a fair playoff format, most importantly without loopholes that punish successful seasons.