Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.
The topic: Debating the NHL playoff format as the Flyers fight for a spot in a crowded standings.
No matter which way you look at it, there’s always going to be some sort of divide when it comes to opinions on a playoff format. And regardless, not one way will ever be deemed as perfect.
Now, it seems like the current structure isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t flaws within it.
There was nothing wrong with the old format and it should’ve stayed the same when the number of divisions condensed from six to four prior to the start of the 2013-14 season. The idea of having the best team from each division followed by the six best remaining in the conference — regardless of their division — making the playoffs makes an unbelievable amount of sense.
But since I have absolutely no pull whatsoever, I’ve come to accept the current structure. Maybe this season is just a little more frustrating given the talent in the East and half of the top 10 teams in the league are currently in the Metro.
Since the wild-card concept was added in the 2013-14 season, I’ve really enjoyed the way the NHL playoffs have played out (pun intended).
At the end of each regular season, the wild card is a benefit to teams that aren’t in the top three of their respective division. It’s not the most glamorous circumstance for the WC teams to take on the top team in their decided division for the first round, but it still makes for some entertaining hockey.
Going back to last season for example, all four wild-card teams (East WC1 Carolina, East WC2 Columbus, West WC1 Dallas, West WC2 Colorado) beat the top teams in their designated division to make it on to the second round. The craziest series was Tampa Bay-Columbus. The Lightning had the most points in the league last season (128) and ended up getting blanked in four games to the Blue Jackets to end their season.
Anything is possible in the playoffs and the wild card only accentuates that.
Now specifically for the Flyers this year, the wild card is obviously a good thing and very well could benefit them at the end of the regular season.
We all know how skilled and competitive the Metropolitan Division has been in 2019-20. For example, teams like the Capitals, who are on pace for around 109 to 110 points, Penguins, Islanders and Blue Jackets are all tough teams to compete with this season. That being said, the Flyers have the biggest chance at making it to the postseason with a wild-card spot.
In hopes that they get there, the wild card could also grant them an opportunity at making an upset like those teams were able to pull off last year, but I won’t get too far ahead of myself.
At the All-Star break, the Flyers were in sixth place of the Metropolitan Division but would have been in first place of the Pacific Division.
Such is life with four divisions. There's a chance one could be loaded and another not so much. There should be no problem with that.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, the Metropolitan Division happens to be the deepest in hockey this season. The Flyers are projected to finish with around 98 points and could be on the outside looking in at the playoffs. If they take care of business the rest of the way and continue to play well against the division (10-4-4 vs. the Metro), they'll be fine.
“You’ve got to win to make the playoffs. It doesn’t matter who you play, you’ve got to win," Jakub Voracek said this week. "I kind of miss that format — 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, I don’t know how many years ago it was, but I kind of enjoyed that format a little bit more. I understand the league’s perspective, they want to have rivalries in the playoffs. Pittsburgh against Washington, they’ve played each other how many times over the past few years? I don’t know about the other guys, but I prefer one through eight. It is what it is. Like I said, you’ve got to win to make the playoffs.”
The format of the top three teams in each division along with two wild-card teams is fine. But then, the second- and third-place teams of each division shouldn't have to square off in the first round. Instead, go by point totals for the seeds. It would avoid top-heavy second-round matchups, would give the best seeds the most favorable chances and would reward regular-season work.
The parity, drama and intensity will always be there in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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