It’s starting to feel like the Toronto Maple Leafs will be playing playoff hockey sooner than later.
As Dylan Murphy wrote earlier this week, the NHL is looking to kick-start a 24-team playoff format that currently sees the Toronto Maple Leafs facing the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round.
The new format is a little different though, as the top-four teams in each conference would get a bye and the new first round would be a Best-of-Five series followed by Best-of-Seven series’s afterwards.
With this new format pending, there have been a number of critics arguing the expanded playoff system, and the biggest issue has to do with the Montreal Canadiens making the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens
As a Leafs fan, it’s always fun to see Montreal miss out and the Leafs make it, so I’m a little upset too, but from a hockey and entertainment perspective, it’s great.
The biggest argument with Montreal getting in is their current playoff odds. If the playoffs started today in it’s normal format, the Habs have a 0.03 % chance of making the playoffs. Even if they rattled off 11 straight wins, the odds are not in their favor.
Critics are so scared that if Montreal makes the playoffs and Carey Price gets hot, they’ll go on a run and the integrity of the game will ruined.
If Price can win 19 games and go on the biggest hot streak of his career, you know what, he deserves the Stanley Cup. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve watched him lately, hasn’t been in his normal self in a few years. As supposedly the best goaltender in the world, he’s only been nominated for the Vezina Trophy once since 2015 and he didn’t even receive a first-place vote during that nomination.
If he’s able to turn into the goaltender he once was, good for him, but I wouldn’t expect that, especially against the Pittsburgh Penguins who they’re scheduled to face.
In this weird world we’re currently living in, I think we need to look at the positives instead of the negatives. The new format is creative and it embraces change which is great.
To compare this to another league that went through weird mid-season changes, let’s look at the 1981 MLB season.
Back then, only the four divisional winners made the playoffs, but due to a mid-season player strike, the MLB completely changed their format.
They decided to award the four divisional leaders at the time of the stoppage a playoff spot and then they restarted the season with each team having a 0-0 record. They essentially broke the season up for a First Half record and Second Half record, so the winner of the First Half made the playoffs and winner of the Second Half made the playoffs.
By expanding their playoffs, the MLB now had eight teams make the playoffs instead of four.
Although an inferior Kansas City Royals team made the playoffs by winning the second half, it didn’t matter. Led by George Bret, the team could have gone on a crazy run, but as the worse team they didn’t. Instead, the MLB got an extra playoff series, more excitement for fan-bases that were potentially out of the playoffs earlier and more gate revenue.
Essentially the Montreal Canadiens are the 1981 Kansas City Royals so even if they make the playoffs, it won’t matter and only adds excitement.
Although the MLB didn’t expand their playoff format again until 1995, this was an audition for their future.
Also, just because the NHL tries it this season, doesn’t mean they have to stick to it for the rest of time. The NHL has the power to change their format at anytime, with the NHLPA approval of course.
Even if every worse-seed wins in the playoff format and all of a sudden we have a Montreal vs. Chicago Stanley Cup Final, so what. They deserve it. The Blue Jackets had 30 less points than the Lightning last year and swept them. Montreal’s 29 points back of first-place Boston right now, so what’s the difference? The beauty of the playoffs is that anything can happen and anyone can win.
We’re living in a weird time and as a result the league needs to adjust. Since they can’t play the entire regular season, this is the most fair way to balance everything out.
Although 24-teams is probably too many playoff teams for a normal season, by doing play-in games, it’ll rejuvenate a few fan-bases in a dire situation and show the NHL if it works.
Also, it’s just sports and nobody should be taking this too seriously anyway. If you’re going to lose sleep over 24-teams in the playoffs, you need to reevaluate your life.
Let’s embrace some normalcy and the fact that it looks like the Stanley Cup will actually be getting lifted this year, hopefully by the Toronto Maple Leafs.