WWYDW(FE): Changing the playoffs

Major League Baseball’s American League Wild-Card race has been insane.

The Yankees occupy the first spot with a 91-68 record, the Red Sox and Mariners are tied for the second spot with matching 89-70 records, and the Blue Jays are a game back with a 88-71 record.

Only three games separate four teams and there are only two playoff spots available. It’s feasible (albeit, unlikely) that we see a four-way tie between these teams. The Yankees need to get swept in their final series of the season, the Red Sox and Mariners need to win two of three in theirs, and the Blue Jays need a sweep. That would result in all of these teams finishing with matching 91-71 records.

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Again, not likely, but this has been a crazy race and there’s a very reasonable chance that, at the very least, we see two teams square off in a Game 162 in order to move on and play in the one-game, winner-take-all wild-card game.

This whole thing got me thinking about the NHL’s playoff format and whether it could be spiced up with some wild-card madness. That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. If you could make a change to the NHL’s playoff format, what would you do? Does it need to be changed?

Back in 2020, the NHL returned from a three-month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic with an altered playoff format. The one-off change was ultimately used as a way to include teams who would have been in the race for playoff spots before the season got nuked with a few weeks remaining, but it also served the function of adding more games so the league could generate more television dollars.

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We obviously have a sour memory from these playoffs because the Oilers wound up getting bounced in the play-in round in four games by the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that was 11 points beneath them in the standings. Still, this was an interesting way to go about things and it could be spun into something that makes sense.

The NBA took a different approach, inviting 22 of the league’s 30 teams (all of whom were within six games of a playoff spot at the time of the pause) to play eight regular-season seeding games before the actual playoffs. After that, the NBA altered its playoff format to feature a mini play-in tournament for the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th teams in each conference. The 7th and 8th teams play and the winner takes the 7th seed and then the loser goes on to play the winner of the 9th and 10th teams to determine the 8th seed.

Something similar for the NHL would involve the top three teams in each of the four divisions earning playoff spots with the remaining four spots up for grabs in a wild-card round. Maybe the 4th and 5th teams in each division square off in a three-game series or even a one-game play-in, or it goes by conference standings to reward stronger divisions.

Some other ideas for the NHL playoffs I’ve seen include going back to the conference, 1-to-8 format, either with or without the auto-top-three seed for a division winner or without it, simply to kill the new four-division format the league currently uses. I’ve also seen the suggestion of allowing the top team in each division to pick who they get to play in the first round and making a big spectacle out of it.

What say you, Nation? What do you like about the NHL playoff format? What would you change? Let us know!


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