Lord Stanley's Review: All Division Winners Are Gone
The North American playoff format owes much of its origins to the Stanley Cup tournament.
The model everywhere else -- ie- British-originated sports such as soccer, rugby, and cricket -- was to conduct bracket competitions during the season.
When the ten-team NHL assumed control over the Cup in 1926, it became the de facto determinant of the league's champion.
In essence, this turned the regular season into a seeding exercise that diminished the luster of spending half a calendar year actually winning something.
And so it is that four NHL teams this spring are viewed as achieving hollow victories.
Two of them have had a while to rue their fate:
- The NHL Atlantic champ Florida was a first-round victim of the New York Islanders, and
- The NHL Pacific champ Anaheim has already dumped its coach, who was immediately snapped up elsewhere, the same way he was hired by the Ducks.
The other two were top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences, for whatever that was worth.
Which wasn't much.
Who'd ever seen a game that featured three straight delay penalties for undisputable puck flips into the crowd?
And in the overtime, Jay Beagle made the odds-on non-goalie save of the year:
But that and a fiver will him a latté, and don't expect any Presidents' Trophy parades in the District.
As for the Dallas Stars, so much for the invincibility of Finnish goalies.
It's right up there with winning the Prez's vase:
So, there it is.
When their schedule mandated preparing for a different opponent virtually every time, these four clubs were the season's best.
But when it came down to constant exposure to only one nemesis every other day, well ...
Ask the Caps, who've now lost to the Penguins in eight of nine post-season series.
What's really different is the format.
And it's enough to alter the perception of an entire year's work.