The NHL has a long history of competitive parity and excitement. This year’s Stanley Cup final between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights is no different.
The “nhl playoff format 2021-22” is a must-have for the NHL. The league must expand the playoffs in order to grow the game.
The 2021-22 NHL season’s final weeks have had all the drama of a foregone conclusion.
Since, say, Halloween 2021, the Eastern Conference playoff field has been decided. The eight playoff teams aren’t as concerned with jockeying for position as they are with letting the chips fall where they may and hope to avoid losing any critical players to injury before the regular season begins.
The Vegas Golden Knights and schadenfreude are in a real playoff race in the Western Conference, with the Vancouver Canucks trying a last-second comeback. The West, on the other hand, is fixed, and has been for a long time.
“It doesn’t have to be this way!” declares the inventor in this segment of the “Shark Tank” presentation.
The NHL currently has 32 clubs after adding Vegas and Seattle in the previous five years. Half of them will miss out on the playoffs. That is completely absurd and detrimental to the game’s growth.
Here’s how the NHL playoffs should look in the future:
There will be a total of 20 teams, 10 from each conference.
Begin with a play-in round, which will include the Nos. 7-10 seeds and will follow the NBA’s efficient and fair model.
After the play-in round, the Stanley Cup playoffs, an unquestionably flawless 16-team fight of attrition, begin.
Okay, this is nearly perfect: Reorganize the final four clubs based on their regular-season results, ignoring geographic classifications in favor of possible Cup rivalries.
Money is printed.
While the other three major sports leagues are adding teams or play-in games to their playoff fields, the NHL has simply increased the number of clubs whose seasons conclude after Game No. 82. It’s akin to squandering money. It’s a quiet end-of-season drama. It’s steadfastly refusing to push additional clubs and top players into the Stanley Cup playoff limelight, when the NHL is at its most popular with the general public.
Because the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best-marketed event in the NHL. Consider the following example:
Seriously, how awesome was that ad?
Isn’t it reasonable to want for more teams to be invited to the postseason party?
Because of this, the NFL decided to increase its playoff field to 14 clubs in 2020. The NBA recognized this, therefore beginning in the 2020-21 season, it established an NBA play-in tournament for the league’s 7th through 10th seeds, which paid off immediately with a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. Major League Baseball did, too: in their most recent collective bargaining agreement, the league’s owners wanted to grow from a 10-team playoff field to a 14-team field, but instead chose to expand to a 12-team field.
When it comes to playoff expansion, is the NHL swimming against the current?
“I don’t believe we are,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly via email. “I’d say MLB and NFL are swimming to us, with the exception of the NBA. Just a thought.”
Since extending its field to 16 teams in 1979-80, when four clubs from the World Hockey Association were absorbed, Daly’s main claim is correct: the NHL has permitted more of its teams to qualify for the playoffs than either football or baseball. From that moment until the San Jose Sharks joined the league in 1991-92, 16 out of 21 clubs qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Was there a time when the regular season was undervalued? Perhaps. That’s a lot of teams in the playoffs. But, apart from one seller every season at the trade deadline, I don’t remember hearing too many complaints about 76 percent of clubs qualifying for the playoffs. That was the situation.
When I argue with people about NHL playoff expansion, the most common counterargument is “that’s just the way it is.”
In this extended model, the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets in the East, as well as the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks in the West, would all be playoff clubs. It’s tough to argue that a.500 club like the Blue Jackets is worthy of such recognition, but that’s only because a 16-team playoff field is “just the way it is.”
The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, “don’t belong” because of recognized institutional standards; and guess what happens when those norms move to enlarge the playoffs? Nobody cares because they’re a playoff club. Fans aren’t criticizing Adam Silver’s office because the San Antonio Spurs (.415 winning percentage) were in a qualifying round game two seasons into the NBA’s play-in tournament.
“Cool, more playoff basketball,” most of those fans said.
The NHL season 2021-22 is approaching its conclusion on April 29. All playoff races will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN+, ABC, and Hulu. • • Subscribe to ESPN+ to watch. • Watch NHL games on ESPN.
To be honest, play-in elimination games are fantastic. It’s like going straight to Game 7. “They would be wonderful for television,” one media executive told me, and there’s no denying it.
“Nothing beats play-in games for generating excitement for the playoffs,” one NHL official concurred.
But, listen, I understand teams’ concerns about having their whole season wiped out by a single loss, especially in a sport where a single poor bounce off a frozen rubber item on an ice surface might be the difference between win and failure. That is why, much like with jersey advertising and postgame fashion heat checks, the NHL should follow in the footsteps of the NBA.
For those who are unfamiliar, the NBA’s play-in games are conducted under the Page-McIntyre method. It’s a double-elimination system that’s been used in sports ranging from rugby to cricket to League of Legends.
The NBA essentially tried to safeguard its No. 7 and 8 seeds by allowing them two opportunities to qualify for the 16-team postseason round despite being in the “play-in” round. The victor of the match between the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds will become the No. 7 seed. With the No. 8 seed on the line, the loser of the game will face the victor of the No. 9 seed vs. 10 seed game.
I understand that every season is different, and there are no promises that every play-in tournament would provide a matchup as exciting as the Lakers vs. Warriors matchup. If the NHL’s playoffs began this week and followed the NBA’s structure, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals would play in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game, with either Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin facing either the Islanders or the Blue Jackets in an advance-or-die game.
The gap between the completion of the regular season and the start of the 16-team competition for the higher seeds concerns me. What may seem to be a few days of much-needed recuperation might quickly turn into rust. The NBA’s regular-season games ended on April 10th. By April 15, all of the play-in games had been completed. On April 16, the regular postseason competition began. There’s certainly a day that can be cut out, and if you really want to give the top seeds an advantage, have the No. 8 seed face the No. 1 seed the night following their qualifying.
Aside from that, this structure — a 20-team, NBA-style play-in tournament — is pure gold. As is the premise of NHL playoff expansion as a whole.
For a chance to win $14,000 in prizes, make choices throughout the playoffs. Make your selections
I’m hoping he will. It’s like comparing Kilimanjaro to an anthill when it comes to the logical reasons for and against extending the Stanley Cup playoffs. But, rather than trying to outsmart Gary Bettman in an argument, let’s take a different approach.
Money. Hockey-related money is sweet, sweet revenue.
It has the potential to be intriguing. Bettman, for example, never wanted the NHL regular season to be paused for the Olympics, and lobbied the IOC to relocate hockey to the Summer Olympics instead. When it became clear that there would be little to no financial advantage from participation, the NHL withdrew its players from the South Korean Games and used future participation as a negotiating tool in CBA talks with the players.
However, halting the regular season in February 2024 for the World Cup of Hockey, whose profits are directly put into the NHL’s coffers, is not a problem.
Bettman was compelled to do something he didn’t want to do because of the windfall. Perhaps the same thing will happen with the enlargement of the playoffs.
The NBA has built a strong argument for proof of concept over the course of two seasons. The NBA play-in games averaged 2.4 million viewers over the first two days. It brought in a large sum of money at the box office as well as extra ad income, including a title sponsor. Last year’s NBA play-in tournament “attracted ad sales of $60.4 million,” according to Broadcasting and Cable.
Of course, the NHL is aware of these figures. It recognizes the possibility for a larger playoff field. It will only take the boss to determine that the income, publicity, and spreading of playoff enthusiasm to “unworthy” clubs is worth breaking precedent for a qualifying round.
It’s bending, not breaking. The 16-team tournament would stay unchanged; the road to hockey’s Holy Grail would become even more difficult; and 38% of NHL teams would still miss out on the playoffs, but would be more involved in playoff races for longer throughout the regular season.
In professional sports, the Stanley Cup playoffs are the finest. By enlarging them, the finest thing becomes much better.
Foul of the Week in Jersey
From across the pond:
This was posted in a Facebook group. I’m not sure what @wyshynski thinks, but I believe this is the most egregious and obnoxious #JerseyFoul of all time. pic.twitter.com/RxXPapYlij
April 18, 2022 — Daemon Chadeau (@DaemonChadeau)
Look, Marcel Dionne of the Los Angeles Kings is a hockey legend in California. By the time Anaheim acquired an NHL expansion franchise, he was out of the league. It’s a unique type of Jersey Foul sacrilege to wear the name and number of an L.A. star on an Anaheim jersey. Worst of all, this is Sonny Milano’s (current Ducks’ No. 12) erasure!
This week’s video
Shea Theodore loves overtime, as confirmed by pic.twitter.com/u5ygd8VVD0
April 21, 2022 — Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights)
The Vegas Golden Knights are doomed unless Shea Theodore scores the game-winning goal in overtime against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. Pack up the tents and turn out the lights. According to FiveThirtyEight, they still have a 25% chance of reaching the playoffs, but it’s still a possibility.
Imagine what that shot would have looked like if they hadn’t made Andrew Hammond appear like Dominik Hasek against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night…
For the Golden Knights, it’s still a tense convention. Pete DeBoer’s management of Robin Lehner against the Capitals epitomizes this point:
Here’s Pete DeBoer’s entire explanation for starting Robin Lehner and then pulling him after a period. pic.twitter.com/1ZlRUFUE3O
April 21, 2022 — Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz)
In Vegas, a coach is alienating a goaltender. That’s something I’ve never seen before…
In the past week, the Western Conference playoff race has shifted. The Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Blue Jackets and Ducks with the help of prayer and Jonathan Quick playing like it was 2012 again, have a higher chance of reaching the playoffs (86 percent) than the Dallas Stars (84 percent ).
On Thursday night, the Stars will be in Calgary. After that, they have four games at home, including a de facto playoff game on Tuesday against Vegas. They have a game in hand on Vegas and a two-point advantage in the standings, according to my calculations. I’m not confident they’ll be able to keep them off.
If the Stars are unable to hold off the Knights, Vegas will advance to the playoffs as the last wild-card seed. That would put them in a matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, whom they beat in six games last season.
That would be a lot of fun.
The week’s winners and losses
Alex Ovechkin is the winner.
Off the ice, Ovechkin is still divisive, but on the rink, he created history this week. He reached the 50-goal mark against Vegas for the ninth time in his career, matching Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history. It’s OK to be enraged that Ovechkin’s politics have put such a stumbling block in the way of his accomplishments.
Current Capitals jerseys are the loser.
As part of the NHL’s “Reverse Retro” series, Washington is allegedly bringing back its “Screaming Eagle” emblem on a black jersey next season. They’re going to be sick, and they’re going to put the existing sweater designs to shame.
Igor Shesterkin was the winner.
Remember when the Rangers’ goalkeeper had five ordinary games and was ruled out of contention for the Hart Trophy? In his last six games, he had a.954 save percentage and three shutouts. Yeah, I’m guessing he’s back, to quote the great John Wick.
Frederik Andersen is the loser.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Carolina Hurricanes goaltender, who was enjoying his best NHL season and was poised for a lengthy playoff run. On Saturday, he was injured in a game against the Avalanche. Rod Brind’Amour, the coach, described it as “a major problem.” Hopefully, he’ll be ready for the playoffs, since the Hurricanes have a chance.
Wichita is the winner.
On Sept. 24, the Arizona Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues will play in Wichita, Kansas, for the first time. That’s fantastic. More NHL games in unusual locations are needed. It’s still hockey, even if it’s the exhibition season. Give additional middle-sized cities with no big pro sports teams a try.
Reminiscence is a loser.
The NHLPA published an independent investigation of its reaction to claims that Kyle Beach was sexually assaulted by a Chicago Blackhawks coach in late 2010 and early 2011. “We cannot uncover any individual misconduct or institutional failings of policy or process by either Fehr [or] NHLPA officials,” the study said, exonerating NHLPA president Don Fehr.
But it’s difficult to forget about the 14-minute phone conversation Fehr had with agent Joe Resnick in April 2011, after Resnick had texted Fehr about a Blackhawks player who was visiting a therapist because of Brad Aldrich. Both deny having any memory of the call, which is one of the report’s numerous “I do not remember” instances.
Headlines by Puck
In what ways is hockey gaining traction in Mexico? According to the Mexico Ice Hockey Federation, the sport has 1,600 junior players. “We want to introduce hockey to Mexico, but we also want them to embrace it and give it their own unique spin, their own unique culture.”
What factors went into the decision to choose Digit Murphy as president of the Metropolitan Riveters, which resulted in the loss of the team’s general manager and communications director?
“I play in a women’s hockey league as a transsexual player. And that’s precisely where I’m supposed to be.”
Last month, the Detroit Red Wings severed ties with Al Sobotka, a Zamboni driver and team legend. We now understand why: After a coworker spotted him urinating in a drain near the ice resurfacing equipment, Sobotka filed a complaint against the team, saying he was discriminated against because of his age (68) and handicap. According to Sobotka’s lawsuit, he suffers from benign prostatic hypertrophy, which generates an insatiable need to urinate.
Jokerit will return to the Finnish Liiga in the 2023-24 season after leaving the KHL after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mark Lazerus has a good post on the usage of anti-gay rhetoric in hockey. “People who are attempting to seem tougher or something like. But ranting at someone isn’t going to make him change. By explaining, you’ll be able to influence someone’s mind.”
According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, Dryden McKay, the Minnesota State goalkeeper who won the Hobey Baker Award this year, explains why he accepted a six-month restriction from competition for an anti-doping rule infraction.
In Duncan, British Columbia, a woodpecker is destroying the world’s biggest hockey stick. Please don’t provide any suggestions to Brad Marchand…
From your ESPN buddies
Our report on the NHL’s offensive surge this season and speculations as to why it’s occurring, in case you missed it.
The “nfl playoffs” is a sport that has recently been in the news. The NHL must expand the Stanley Cup playoffs to include more teams and increase the number of games.
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