The National Hockey League has been fourth of four when it comes to popularity amongst the professional sports leagues in the United States since well… the beginning of time.
It’s a game that many people do enjoy watching live but once you get the average Joe outside of the arena, interest dips quickly.
Hockey can be a tough watch on TV. If you didn’t grow up playing or watching the game consistently, it’s easy to lose track of where the puck is. Not to mention you might be clueless on where it could be going. With basketball you can see the ball go through the hoop 99 percent of the time. It’s not like that when someone scores in hockey.
It’s a sport that borders on niche. And with that it forces NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league to get creative with some of the rules to try and drum up some entertainment. It started with adding the shootout after overtime to help decide a winner. It’s a cute idea but does that really decide which team played best that night?
Could you imagine MLB going to a home run derby after 9 innings of a tie game? Or the NFL doing a kicking contest after overtime with a tie game? That would be silly. And so is the shootout.
Why do you think they don’t do that or their fun little 3-on-3 overtime rules for the playoffs? Because it’s not real hockey.
Welcome to the Play-In
A few years ago, the NBA decided to shake things up with their playoffs by adding the play-in tournament. Where the 7 through 10 seeds battle it out to decide who will make the actual playoffs and face the first and second seeds of their respective conference.
And according to reports from a recent Board of Governors meeting, the NHL is contemplating doing the same.
Adding a play-in style tournament to the NHL playoffs is just completely unnecessary. Hockey’s playoffs are perfectly fine the way they are. They don’t need some gimmicky, money-grabbing tournament to award mediocrity.
The NBA needs a play-in tournament to make the start of the playoffs more interesting. The series between the 1-8 and 2-7 seeds are largely non-competitive and boring.
In the last five years, the 1 and 2 seeds are 20-0 against the 7 and 8 seeds. Out of those 20 series (which are best of seven), three were sweeps and nine went to five games. So in conclusion, 12 of the 20 series were just straight up blow outs.
Two of the series went to a game seven and they were both between the 2 and 7 seeds.
On the flip side of that, the 1 and 2 seeds in the NHL are 14-6 against the 7 and 8 seeds in the last five seasons.
(For disclosure, I did not use the 2021 NHL playoffs because they changed the divisions due to COVID so the playoff seeds weren’t consistent with previous years. So I went back to 2017 to keep it at five years.)
Out of those 20 series in the NHL, four of them were sweeps. So yes, the NHL had more series that stopped after four games than the NBA did. But the caveat to that is two of those sweeps were upsets. Including in 2019 when the Tampa Bay Lightning finished with the most wins in NHL history and were swept in the first round.
Four more of these series went only five games. So in conclusion, 12 of the 20 series went at least six games long.
Again, this proves that hockey’s playoffs are just fine the way they are. We don’t need to add more teams to it. Half the leagues makes the frickin’ playoffs as it is!
Adding Undeserving Teams
The NBA has only had their play-in system for the last two seasons. Not a large sample size. But in those two seasons, half of the extra two teams that made the play-in games didn’t have a winning record.
So we are essentially rewarding losing teams by letting them get an 83rd chance at making the playoffs. If you do not have a winning record. You should not make the play-in tournament. End of discussion.
This is what I don’t understand when people use the argument that the regular season is “meaningless.” What the hell do you mean it’s meaningless? They play 82 games to decide if they are good enough to make the f’ing playoffs.
For some teams that are so good they know they’ll make the playoffs, these games matter for getting home-field/ice advantage. For teams that are not so good these games matter for getting into the playoffs.
Either way the 82 games played during the regular season matter.
Sorry I don’t think your 38-44 team should have ANOTHER shot at making the playoffs. Maybe the regular season should’ve meant a little more to you.