Asterisk, schmasterisk: a quick historical past of weird Stanley Cup playoff codecs


The permutations and seedings proceed to vary, however the concepts floated most constantly among the many NHL’s return-to-play situations in latest weeks are numerous variations of a 24-team event.
As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Wednesday, his sources at the moment point out the NHL and NHL Gamers’ Affiliation are engaged on a format by which:
– The highest 4 seeds by factors proportion in every convention obtain byes however would take part in a three-game event to “get some motion”
– The opposite 16 groups are seeded in brackets and play best-of-five collection
– The eight winners of that bracket advance to a standard (however bracketed) 16-team playoff with best-of-seven collection
A 24-team format has produced loads of on-line objections amongst followers and pundits alike. No straw-man argument right here: simply hop on the ole Twitter and see for your self. And, positive, a few of the conspiracy theories have weight to them, most notably the concept a 24-team playoff brings not-very-good groups like Montreal and Chicago into the combination for extremely clear TV-market causes. The NHL likes cash.
I might get on my soapbox and say, “Who cares? It could be a variety of enjoyable,” Or, “For those who don’t like Montreal and Chicago making the playoffs, and so they’re suuuuch dangerous groups, then it ought to be no drawback beating them.” However I gained’t. Not right this moment, not less than. The Detroit Purple Wings, who’ve the bottom factors proportion for the reason that 1999-00 Atlanta Thrashers, beat the first-overall Boston Bruins twice this season. This ain’t the NBA. The NHL’s worst workforce has a Balboa’s likelihood towards the most effective workforce on any given night time. So I perceive the nervousness over a shortened format getting a superior workforce ousted if it underperforms throughout a tiny pattern.
However it doesn’t matter what format the league settles on, be it 24, 22, 20 and even simply the 16 groups at the moment holding playoff spots within the standings, it is going to be irregular, unprecedented and, in comparison with no matter transpires in a daily, non-pandemic, 82-game season, unfair to not less than just a few markets. I thus discover the concept of complaining about any format considerably laughable throughout these loopy instances…
…Particularly when the NHL’s historical past of playoff codecs shouldn’t be some pristine Ark of the Covenant that shall by no means be disturbed. Enable me to take you on a quick tour of unfair-playoff-format historical past, publish growth.
Simply because issues have been foolish previously don’t imply they should be foolish right this moment, in fact. Two wrongs don’t make a proper, as I’m positive individuals who learn the tweet and never the article will reply on Twitter. However my level is: let’s not faux for a second that the NHL playoffs have lengthy been an establishment of equity.
1967-68: Growth workforce will get automated Cup remaining berth
When the NHL expanded from six to 12 groups, the Authentic Six stayed in a single division, the East, whereas all six new groups have been positioned within the West. The format on the time had every division play its personal bracket, that means an growth workforce would robotically win the West and play the East winner within the Cup remaining.
The standings breakdown by factors proportion was comical in 1967-68:
Montreal, .635NY Rangers, .608Boston, .568Chicago, .541Toronto, .514Detroit, .446
Philadelphia, .493Los Angeles, .486St. Louis, .473Minnesota, .466Pittsburgh, .453Oakland, .318
The Blues would’ve been a sixth-place workforce within the East. As a substitute, they gained the West bracket and reached the ultimate, the place they have been swept by Montreal. Suppose the second-overall Rangers felt it was honest that they needed to play fourth-overall Chicago in Spherical 1 and misplaced? The Blues ended up making the ultimate three years in a row beneath this format, going 0-12 within the three collection, together with 1970, when Bobby Orr’s flying extra time aim ended it. Does anybody attempt to slap an asterisk on probably the most iconic aim in NHL historical past? Nope. Folks moved on.
1970-71: Bruins burned by Dryden
Boston completed with 121 factors and the league’s finest file, however the 1970-71 format pitted the No. 1 workforce in every division towards the No. three workforce, and No. 2 performed No. 4. So the reward for ending second in your division truly trumped ending first in Spherical 1. The Bruins bumped into legendary rookie goalie Ken Dryden and misplaced the opening collection in seven video games.
1976-77: For disgrace, Smythe Division
The Smythe Division’s Minnesota North Stars and Chicago Black Hawks made the playoffs with level totals of 64 and 63. Add these up and so they’d nonetheless end 5 factors behind the record-breaking Canadiens’ 132. The divisional playoff format robotically gave three groups from every division a playoff spot, that means the Rangers, who had 72 factors, missed the massive dance. The next season, the NHL allowed the highest six groups in every convention into the playoffs, no matter division.
1987-88: Leafs make playoffs with 52 factors
Toronto posted a glowing 21-49-10 file and .325 factors proportion…and made the playoffs because the Campbell Convention’s lowest seed. In the meantime, within the East, the Rangers and Penguins missed with 82 and 81 factors. They didn’t precisely get screwed given they performed in a special convention, however it’s value stating for example of life being unfair.
1991-92: 65-point Whalers make playoffs over 79-point Islanders
The ’92 divisional brackets mirrored right this moment’s common format however with out the crossover berths, that means all 4 divisions have been assured 4 entries. That meant Hartford’s 65 factors have been adequate for a playoff spot because the fourth-place Adams Division workforce, whereas the Islanders, fifth within the Patrick with 79 factors, stayed dwelling.
1992-93 – Battle of Quebec in Spherical 1
It was an awesome collection, however it was a disgrace to see it in Spherical 1. The Nordiques and Habs completed fourth and sixth, respectively, within the NHL’s general standings, however as a result of the playoffs have been bracketed slightly than sorted by convention seedings, they needed to conflict within the first spherical. The 1-to-Eight seeding system debuted the next yr.
1998-99 – Hurricanes, eighth in convention standings, get a No. three seed
Ah, the Southeast. As NHL growth continued via the late 1990s, the league break up groups into three divisions per convention, and the winner of every division acquired the highest seeds. So Carolina, the eighth-best workforce in its personal convention, “earned” a No. three seed and residential ice within the first spherical. Its opponent, the Bruins, pulled out a collection win regardless.
2006-07 – Sid’s first playoff look lasts one spherical
Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins reached the post-season throughout his sophomore yr, by which he gained the Hart and Artwork Ross Trophies. His Penguins and the Ottawa Senators tied for the third most factors within the East with 105, however that darned Southeast tousled the seedings once more, forcing the Pens and Sens to satisfy in Spherical 1. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s playoff debut lasted 5 video games. Lame.
2011-12: Atlantic Division chaos
The Atlantic in 2005 produced 4 of the highest 5 seeds within the Japanese Convention, because the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers and Devils completed with 109, 108, 103 and 102 factors. The Florida Panthers gained the Southeast – and a No. three seed – with 94 factors. Pittsburgh and Philly, the No. 2 and three groups within the convention, needed to play in Spherical 1. It was a zany, memorable collection, however it ought to’ve occurred later within the playoffs.
2016-17: The Large Three meet in Rounds 1 and a couple of
The Capitals, Penguins and Blue Jackets completed with 118, 111 and 108 factors, good for first, second and fourth within the general NHL standings. All of them occurred to play within the Metropolitan Division. The bracketed divisional playoff format, introduced again in 2013-14 and nonetheless in place right this moment, compelled the league’s No. 2 and Four groups to play in Spherical 1. The Penguins knocked off the Blue Jackets and superior to Spherical 2, which gave us the league’s No. 1 and a couple of groups matching up in Pittsburgh and Washington. So two of the league’s high 4 groups have been carried out by the top of Spherical 2.
2017-18: Atlantic Division cannibalizes itself
The Lightning, Bruins and Leafs completed first, second and tied for third within the Japanese Convention in factors. Boston and Toronto have been compelled to duke it out for seven video games in Spherical 1 earlier than Tampa took down Boston in Spherical 2. Within the present format, for those who don’t win your division, you’re punished severely.
Fairly the sample of dangerous breaks and unfair codecs, proper? It goes again many years. So go forward and gripe in regards to the 24-team proposal, however cool it on the asterisk discuss. The Stanley Cup playoffs have by no means been a constant mannequin of pragmatism.
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Tags: information, stanley cup playoffs, nhlConnect: In regards to the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior author at The Hockey Information and has been a part of the workforce since 2011. He is your one-stop store for deep-dive participant interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy participant rankings, participant security and hair ideas. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey Information Reside and The Hockey Information Podcast.

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