With tonight’s Game 7 between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals, the first round of the NHL’s playoffs will come to an end. It’s been a wild one, to say the least.
The first round has been loaded with upsets, highlighted by a shocking four-game sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning by the Columbus Blue Jackets, a five-game thumping of the first-in-the-West Calgary Flames by the Colorado Avalanche. But beyond the exciting and shocking first-round upsets, which are a feather in Gary Bettman’s hat when it comes to creating parity, the playoffs thus far haven’t been without controversy.
First, there was the seeding. Before the playoffs even started many fans complained about the NHL’s seeding format, which actively tries to force divisional rivalries. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, the league’s third- and seventh-ranked teams, met in the first round. The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals, who both finished behind the Bruins, got to play teams ranked lower in the league standings than Boston did. With this format, teams from a weaker division have a much easier path through the playoffs than teams from a strong division.
After that, reffing has also been a hot topic. Most notably, the Vegas Golden Knights had a 3-0 lead in last night’s Game 7 with the San Jose Sharks. Cody Eakin received a five-minute penalty for apparently cross-checking Joe Pavelski in the head, and the Sharks scored four goals on the subsequent advantage. Many are suggesting that a penalty like that should be reviewed, because, if it was, surely Eakin wouldn’t have been handed a five-minute major and the Golden Knights would be moving on to the second round.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How would you fix the NHL playoffs? Do you think they’re broken? Does the seeding format need to be changed? Should the league implement more reviews for referees? Or does it just complicate an already-difficult job?
On the format…
Personally, I don’t hate the way the format is now. The goal is to create divisional rivalries like ones the NHL used to have and this format has accomplished exactly that. Forcing Toronto and Boston to meet in the first round each year fuels an interesting rivalry. Same with Vegas and San Jose.
Besides, as we saw with Calgary and Tampa Bay, anybody can beat anybody. There’s no guarantee that facing an easier opponent in the first round rather than a strong divisional opponent guarantees a victory. From the perspective of Toronto, had the league gone with the standard top to bottom conference standings, they would have been the road team against the Islanders in the first round. Is that really much easier than Boston? It sounds simple, but if you want to win, then win.
The only change I would be interested in seeing is a European-style choose-your-own-adventure format. The top team should get to pick who they play in the first round, and then the second team chooses, then the third, and the fourth and fifth who are left over play each other. I think it would certainly fulfill the objective of creating rivalries, and then teams can’t whine about who they play because they got to choose. Imagine hosting a press conference as the top team to say you want to play another team because you think they’re the easiest opponent. It would be a riot for beef.
Reffing will always be an issue no matter what. Every single year something happens (or doesn’t happen) that causes people to yell about reffing. This year, it was that Cody Eakin hit on Joe Pavelski that ultimately cost Vegas Game 7. I mean, the refs didn’t force them to lose Game 5 or Game 6 or allow four goals in four minutes, but they didn’t make things any easier with this botched call.
The issue at hand now becomes whether or not you should be able to review penalties. That sounds nice in theory because it could have saved Vegas from Game 7’s epic collapse, but it also opens up a massive box of possible issues. We’ve seen how frustrating constant goalie interference and offside reviews have been.
Offside reviews, which frequently involve a player not involved in the play stepping slightly ahead of the puck, massively interfere with the flow of the game. You have the excitement of a goal completely erased by five minutes spent staring into an iPad to make a decision. Goalie interference reviews are basically a coin flip. Nobody ever knows what’s going to be called, which became a point of controversy again in Boston and Toronto’s Game 5. Both, in theory, serve a function, but both are also convoluted and get in the way of the flow of the game.
What say you, Nation? Would you change the NHL’s playoff format? What about reffing? Do you think a penalty is a thing that could be reviewed? What other issues do you have with the playoffs that need to be solved?
HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS
Last year, the fifth edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless in Edmonton had a record year by raising $200,000 to assist the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre in helping the homeless and those living in poverty.
With the event fast approaching May 10 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre, we’re hoping citizens of Oilersnation step up to help, as they always do, to make HHTH the biggest success yet. Last year’s response was fantastic, thanks in large part to the 10th anniversary Oilersnation party that raised $5,000 for HHTH, with every penny staying right here in Edmonton.
In these final days leading up to the tournament, we’re hoping to sell as many $1,000 pennant sponsorships, and $100 Mega-Raffle tickets as we can. If you own a small business or want a keepsake for the games room at home, pennant sponsorships are perfect – you get a pennant with your company logo signed by our pros. With the Mega-Raffle, just 100 tickets are printed. The winner gets a Theatre Suite for 10 guests, food and a bar tab at an Oilers game next season hosted by Ron and Linda Low. Good times.
You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.