To be frankly honest, I’m sick of hearing how close the NHL playoff race is for the final seeds year in and year out. Why you might ask? We’ll because I don’t understand why competing for 8th place, effectively in the bottom half of each conference, is anything to be proud of. Sure we recently witnessed the first time an 8th place seed won the Stanley Cup, so obviously the 8th place seeds in each conference aren’t horrible but that doesn’t change the fact that they are barely if at all in the top half of the teams in the league during the regular season. By allowing so many teams into the playoffs year after year, the NHL has effectively said the regular season is pointless.
This isn’t a new thing either for the NHL. In fact the NHL has allowed more than 50% of the teams in the league to qualify for the NHL playoffs for a considerable part of its history traced all the way back to the 1920’s. The teams that truly work the hardest to be the best all year get no reward for it (other than home ice advantage) as lesser teams that limp through many parts of the season somehow get to partake on the same big stage at the end of the season. The more I think about the fact that each team has a 50% chance or more of making the NHL playoffs each season the more I wish the system would be changed.
To prove my point of how taking 16 teams to the NHL playoffs in a 30 team league defeats the idea of having a successful regular season, there are currently 3 teams that would qualify for the NHL playoffs this year with season records that include more losses(regulation and OT) than wins, Boston, LA, and Winnipeg. Sure some of these teams might improve to have more wins than combined regulation and OT losses by the time the NHL playoffs arrive, but the point still stands that nearly every year one or more teams qualify that actually lost more games than they won. This seems incredibly silly to me and embraces mediocrity. How can these teams be rewarded with a playoff appearance and be given the opportunity to play with teams that played considerably above average during the entire season? It is because of this that I believe the NHL regular season’s importance has unfortunately been diminished over the years even with the increase in the number of teams in the league.
I find myself constantly wishes for more exclusivity for the NHL playoffs. I would welcome and love the day only 8 teams make the playoffs, 2 from each division. Hell, even 12 teams making the playoffs would be ok with me, 3 from each division with the division winners receiving a bye in the first round. This would put the NHL playoffs in-line with 2 of the other major sports leagues in North America, the MLB which has 10 of 30 teams qualify, and the NFL which has 12 of 32 teams qualify. Qualifying for the playoffs just seem so much more important and lofty of a goal in those leagues and I believe it is because only the best are rewarded with a chance to win it all.
I have especially felt animosity towards the 16 teams NHL playoff format since the LA Kings won as the 8th seed in the 2011-2012 season. The Kings entered those playoffs with a 40-27-15 record meaning they had only won 48.8% of their games all season. Sure they played well in the playoffs and won it all but I have a hard time believing that just because they won the cup that year that they were actually the best team in the league and deserved to win. In my mind they got lucky and happened to take advantage of an opportunity that they were given even though they didn’t deserve to be given that opportunity.
In my perfect idea of what the NHL should be only those that prove to be consistently the best should be given the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. But alas, I doubt that will ever happen since it has been almost 100 years since the last time less than 50% of the teams in the NHL qualified for the NHL Playoffs. At least today isn’t as bad as the 80’s when 16 of 21 teams (76%) would qualify for the NHL Playoffs.
I’m sure some of you agree with me, but if you think I’m full of it I would love to know why in the comments below.
Cover Photo: The Large NHL Playoff Bracket. Photo by: letsgowings.com