Blog Entry

Problems in NHL Playoff System

Posted on: May 4, 2009 11:41 am
Edited on: May 5, 2009 8:49 am
 

With the conference quarterfinals over, and Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs underway, I have a few observations about what’s worked and what needs improvement in the NHL playoff system.  Clearly, the lack of quality, unified television coverage is a sore spot that needs to be fixed, if the sport ever wants to equal or exceed the level of popularity it had in the mid-late 1990s.  There are other problems too, such as how the playoffs drag onwards, and how a few teams lack the quality to really belong in the playoffs in the first place.

The way the NHL has marketed every series on the star players present is sickening, and disrespectful to what is at its core, a team sport.  No one denies that Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are great, if not phenomenal talents.  But how those teams succeed in the playoffs is dependent upon much more than a single player.  Ovechkin and Crosby’s teams, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t even the most exciting to watch in this year’s playoffs.  In my opinion, this designation should be given to the Blackhawks and Hurricanes.  No matter- that’s what the NHL’s paid commentators will be talking about.

NHL television itself it an abomination.  Nothing can define a professional sport as “niche” or local-market-only, like inadequate or poor quality television coverage.  While a team may have sufficient broadcast of its games in its own media market, there is no national solution.  The days when ESPN carried multiple regulation season games weekly, and most of the playoffs, died after the 2004-05 lockout – the result of a combination of poor ratings and poor advertising revenue.  Nowadays, the channel, “Versus” provides some coverage, with about so-so quality.  However, the channel isn’t offered in basic programming packages for most cable companies.  NBC has purchased a chunk of the playoffs also, but puts out a horrible product, with poor commentary, and little promotion.  Perhaps one day soon, a legitimate set of non-premium NHL channels may arise, and carry the majority of playoffs games, but until then fans may be stuck listening at their computers or waiting to read about the results the next day.

A frequent gripe about the NHL system of playoffs is the incredible length of time it takes to complete one cycle.  With 16 teams over 4 rounds, and the possibility of going the maximum number of games in a 7-game series, determining the championship team can seem almost as tiring for a dedicated fan as it does for the players.  But why is it necessary to have so many teams qualify for the postseason ?  With only 30 teams total in the NHL, 16 teams represent more than 50% of all teams qualifying!  No other professional sport in North America does this except the NBA (and critics agree its system is flawed too).  Perhaps a system where only 6 teams from each conference qualify would be a good solution.  The top two teams in each conference would receive a “bye” through the first round.  While the number of rounds would stay the same, the quality of play should increase.  The San Jose Sharks lost early in the playoffs yet again, despite winning the President's Cup and owning the best regular season record in 2008-09.  But one series later, and they lose embarrassingly to the DucksI suspect that having underperforming teams present in the playoffs exists solely because it increases revenues and profit, not because of some desire for competition.  *Sigh- “purity of sport” takes a backseat to financial greed.

As the playoffs go on this year, I hope for more challenging matchups and more exciting hockey.  Personally, I don’t have a lot of faith in the commissioner, Gary Bettman to change the NHL much for the better, but I can hope. 

Comments

Since: Dec 6, 2007
Posted on: May 8, 2009 7:49 pm
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

see now that's sad. i don't really care about carolina, and yet i can watch any of their playoff games because i live in Vancouver and not new york.



Since: May 7, 2009
Posted on: May 7, 2009 1:10 pm
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

I am very frustrated with the TV coverage of the NHL playoffs. I can't believe that certain games in the second round are not even being televised (other than regionally). I am a Carolina Hurricanes fan living in New York, and only get to see the end of their games against the Boston Bruins because Versus only shows the Caps-Penguins series. I understand that, but why can't the NHL schedule the games at different times, or at the very least, put the other game on their own freaking network, which I also happen to get at home. This is inexcusable. In the long run, the NHL needs to get a better TV deal if they ever want to be considered a major league like NBA/NFL.



Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: May 7, 2009 12:13 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

I'm not saying the NHL should rig anything up, but they should MAKE CERTAIN that the biggest market teams do well.  I live in Chicago and for almost a decade the Blackhawks were irrelevant.  Now, the Blackhawks are becoming more than relevant again; just like it used to be. I'm not a rocket scientist, but that sounds a lot like rigging it so the big market teams win...which MIGHT be frowned upon by society as a whole. Just a thought

The fact that the Blackhawks were irrelevant for a decade is pure coincidence. You could pick out any team in any sport and say the same thing. "They were irrelevant for so long, but now things are the way they used to be. They're competitive again." Just because a team is in a big market city, that doesn't give them a right to own a spot in the playoffs. If that were the case, what's the point of having the small market teams even compete? Who's to say that one team SHOULD do well over another? I know it would be well-intended, but to say that big market teams deserve to succeed more than other, smaller market teams isn't fair. Every team deserves a shot. If a small market team like the Blue Jackets gets into the playoffs and a team like, say for example, the Red Wings DIDN'T make it (extremely unlikely, but hear me out). Are you implying that, just because the Red Wings are in a big market, they should be given seniority and get a playoff spot over a team like the Jackets? Teams go through ups and downs in their history. That's what makes it worth watching them. You never know what you'll see. If you knew your team would always make the playoffs because they're a big market team, what would be the point of even watching them until the playoffs? I might be misinterpreting what you said, but if I'm not, then I just don't follow the logic of saying that the league should MAKE CERTAIN that big market teams do well, and in turn, small market teams don't do as well as the bigger market teams.



Since: Feb 11, 2008
Posted on: May 5, 2009 11:32 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

Canadian commentators are brutal. I just believe that most commentary in hockey is pathetic. Guys are screaming their heads off and they drive me crazy. Hughson and Gord Miller and Bob Cole, come on man. These guys should all be in a mental house.




Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: May 5, 2009 11:25 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

 wrote:I'm not saying the NHL should rig anything up, but they should MAKE CERTAIN that the biggest market teams do well. And please to be telling me how this should be accomplished ?  Unless you compromise the integrity of those impartial and almost perfect corps of NHL referees (yes- written with dripp
ing sarcasm; bunch of Toronto-lovers), the only avenue left to achieving this is elimination of the salary cap.

I'm all for contracting the league from under-performing teams like the Thrashers, Coyotes, Panthers, etc.  But to ensure that Original Six teams or big market teams succeed just because of who/where they are is no good.  And without a salary cap, you get big bloated monsters like the NY Yankees, who buy up all available talent, and whose fans expect to be in the playoffs every year. 



Since: Jan 8, 2007
Posted on: May 5, 2009 11:02 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

I'm not saying the NHL should rig anything up, but they should MAKE CERTAIN that the biggest market teams do well.  I live in Chicago and for almost a decade the Blackhawks were irrelevant.  Now, the Blackhawks are becoming more than relevant again; just like it used to be. 



Since: Nov 5, 2007
Posted on: May 5, 2009 10:46 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

The full quote was "With only 30 teams total in the NHL, 16 teams represent more than 50% of all teams qualifying!  No other professional sport in North America does this except the NBA."

While I understand your point and agree with it, the author said it already.



Since: Dec 12, 2006
Posted on: May 5, 2009 10:16 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

Before greed took over, the NHL playoffs worked. The season ended when it was still North American winter. The playoffs ended in early spring and they were riveting. Quarter Finals, Semis and Cup Finals. That's it. 8 teams make the playoffs. So, my suggestions are as follows:

1. Replace Bettman

2. Reduce to 24 teams

3. Reduce to 4 divisons of 6 teams: NE, NW, SE, SW

3. The champs from each division and the 2 next highest rated teams from each conference (West and East) are in.

4. Quarters, Semis and Finals. 7 game series.

5. Consistent officiating between regular season and playoffs

6. Regular season schedules revised to have a significant increase in inter-conference games (people in Atlanta should be aware that Jarome Iginla is a star for instance, similarly Kovulchuk in Calgary)

7. Keep on cappin'. DON'T let rich markets buy all the best players and DO let poor markets die. The quality can only go up.

8. Get a TV deal in the US? Is this important? I don't know. If people prefer basketball, give them basketball. Reduce the NHL teams that don't sell and the quality of the NHL goes up again. In Canada, the NHL is like the NFL to the US.




Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: May 5, 2009 8:51 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System


 wrote:
*cough* NBA *cough* My mistake- thanks for calling it to my attention.



Since: Apr 1, 2008
Posted on: May 5, 2009 5:55 am
 

Problems in NHL Playoff System

No kidding. If you are a hockey fan in the states, you suffer through poor coverage and rotten commentary.  And, my favorite thing of all is that I have to watch the Red Sox three times a week on ESPN rather than a playoff hockey game that actually means something. 


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