Stanley Cup Playoffs: Count Brett Connolly as an 'old format' proponent

Chris Lingebach
April 04, 2019 - 3:46 pm
Stanley Cup Playoffs: Count Brett Connolly as an 'old format' proponent

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of year again, where hope springs eternal for 16 NHL teams in pursuit of Lord Stanley's Cup.

Which means it's also time to kvetch about playoff seedings and reignite a five-year-old debate about which playoff model is best, old versus new.

"I think the old format's better," Caps winger Brett Connolly weighed in on the subject during his weekly Grant & Danny appearance, presented by F.H. Furr.

If the Stanley Cup Playoffs started today, five Metropolitan division teams would be in, while just three Atlantic division teams would qualify. The NHL's current playoff format, which was instituted in 2014, values winning your division more than overall point total within your conference, in effect matching more teams up with their rivals earlier on in the playoffs.

This used to be a sore spot for Caps fans, as they got bounced by Pittsburgh in consecutive second rounds (2015-16, 2016-17). Things finally went the other way last year (glory be!)

"I think if you keep the number of games you play against your division, I think if you can do that, then you can kind of keep those rivalries, if that's what they're trying to do," Connolly said. So you play those teams a little more."

Under the old format, re-seeding would occur after the first round, ensuring the top seed would continue to play the lowest remaining seed. The current format doesn't allow for re-seeding, with the higher-seeded teams maintaining home-ice advantage throughout, regardless of point record.

So, the two one-seeds, by virtue of winning their respective divisions – currently the Lightning (124 points) and Capitals (102) – still have the benefit of playing the lowest-seeded teams (Wild Cards Carolina and Columbus) in the first round. But the team with the second-highest point total in the East (Bruins, 105) gets shafted with the two-seed, pitting them against a three-seed (Maple Leafs, 99), a much tougher road out of the first round.

Boston would be playing Carolina (95) under the old format. Ironically enough, the Caps would have drawn Pittsburgh (97) in the first round.

"I don't know. It just doesn't make a lot of sense when two of the best teams are gonna play each other in the first round, and one of them's not gonna move on. It's not fair, I don't think," Connolly went on. "You work so hard during the season to gain an advantage and it's not easy to do that, and when you have good seasons you want to have better matchups so you go deeper in the playoffs, because that's ultimately what you want to do.

"I don't think it's fair. It's kind of weird that way. It would be nice to, obviously like a team like Toronto – they're gonna play Boston in the first round, and one of those teams is gonna be out, and both of them had over 100 points."

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