Top Ranked NHL Teams Should Pick Their Playoff Opponents
Imagine finishing first overall in the NHL and getting to choose your opponent for the playoffs. It’s a business built around winning, so shouldn’t winners get to choose who they want to play? The league should take the top 16 teams at the end of the regular season from all 30 teams and assign them a ranking from 1-16 based on total points accumulated in the regular season. The General Manager from the number one ranked team could get to choose any opponent ranked from 2-16. Odds are he would choose the number 16 ranked team or one ranked near the bottom. The idea would be for the GM (General Manager) to choose a team he thinks his team has the best chance of defeating in a best of 7 series. The GM from the next highest ranked team remaining would be next to pick his opponent. The GM would then choose if he wants to play the standard 2-2-1-1-1 playoff format or my favourite: the 2-3-2 format.
The 2-3-2 format is all about home ice advantage in my mind. Most people look at the 3 consecutive home games the underdog gets to play (2 games if the series ends in 4), and feels that’s too much of an advantage. I look at it completely differently. Most series’ go an average of 6 games. This means a team is either trailing or leading 3 games to 2. If you have home ice advantage and are up 3 games to 2, don’t you like your chances of winning at least one of two games on home ice? Look at the flip side, you’re down 3 games to 2, but you have a chance to win two straight at home, instead of having to win game 6, an elimination game on the road. The obvious plus to the 2-3-2 format is the money and time saved from less travel.
With the current playoff format, we are guaranteed that one team from each Conference will play for the Stanley Cup in the Final. This means Montreal will never play Toronto for the Cup and Calgary could never play Edmonton for the Cup, so on and so forth. Ranking teams from 1-16 would create more surprises and dramatic possibilities. Imagine you’re a GM of a team, finished first overall and choose to play the 16th seeded team then get defeated by a team you chose because you thought they were the easiest to beat! If this occurred, fans and media would be buzzing about the upset. Underdogs would certainly feel an extra sense of motivation knowing they were specifically picked by their opponents as an easier team to beat. Of course, the number 8th seeded team would be matched with the last remaining team, but would still have home ice advantage with the choice of a 2-3-2 or 2-2-1-1-1 format.