Finally, the playoffs are over. Thank goodness. The drudgery!
Who cares? Make fun of me if you would like. I was bored to tears after the first round of the playoffs and I didn't watch many games thereafter. I've been bored after the first round of the playoffs for a long time. Truth be told, the three most exciting playoff teams I've ever watched were Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston (outside the team I cheer for, but I even admit that NJ don't play viewer-friendly hockey either).
I won't segue into the topic with things I love or hate about the game; I'm just not interested in indulging in that and you can decipher what I infer from the context of my answers anyway. So I'll just get started now:
1. Teams that win divisions should choose their opponent out of all non-division-winning opponents in their conference (give conference winners the first choice in the case of wildcard). I am sick and tired of seeing a team go on to do really well in their conference but get supremely ... uh... ensnared... by a bad match-up. Montreal finished first in their division only to play one of their nemeses (TB being the other), so they got completely... uh... cornered... this year even though they beat their first nemesis. Here's your reward for winning your division: You play the HOTTEST TEAM IN THE NHL! St. Louis also ended up playing their Kryptonite.
You're illusioning yourself if you think that the "best team" can beat every team and you ignore the rock paper scissors aspect of the playoffs. Had NJ played Boston in 2012 for example, they wouldn't have gotten to the Finals, but Washington ended up doing the entire conference a favour by eliminating the Brutes. The Bruins just ended up playing against their Kryptonite, and every team has at least one in their conference.
But to make the season super-competitive, teams should be trying their guts out to win the division.
2. Expand bracket to 20, make bottom 8 teams vie for 4 wildcard spots in each conference. They will play best of ONES (like baseball) to determine who gets to play in the playoffs.
3. After the 16 teams are confirmed and the choices are finished, the playoffs should work in this kind of format: First series: best of seven; second series: best of five; third series: best of three; Stanley Cup finals: BEST OF ONE.
Additionally, (and I dearly wished they had gone with the four conference format that that NHLPA rejected in order to posture), in round three, the four remaining teams would be reseeded so that the highest point team plays the lowest point team, east or west.
Why so messed up a format? Because after the best of seven, teams can now revue video tapes and come up with on-the-fly strategies to go into the next series, which puts a lot more emphasis on non-systematic hockey play that can catch the opponent off guard.
One game titles are simply superior in the entire sports world in terms of generating excitement for the game, any game. ONE super bowl, ONE world cup: these two are the most popular sporting events in the world. When we watch the Olympics, it's ONE gold medal game. There is no question in my mind that the Stanley Cup should be decided in one single game so that you make the staffs have to research the opponent.
They say the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win; wrong. That's like saying a marathon is the hardest race to win, but marathoners won't win a 100m dash against the fastest sprinters in the world. It is simply the result of the painstakingly longest tournament.
4. I'd rather too many penalties were called than none at all, and so do most outside watchers. Either that, or make those NHL refs tighten up like a bunch of nuns. However, if series' get much shorter, games will be much more penalty-filled. What needs to especially be called is the play along the boards (the tie-ups for exactly 2.3 seconds so that refs don't call it after 3 seconds).
Special teams are simply a part of the game, and one of its more exciting, monotone-breaking aspects.
5. Get rid of those stupid east/west conference trophies. Nobody gives a rats dung about them. There's only one trophy teams want to win.
(No, Anaheim Chicago did nothing for me. I tried to watch it, but it was, again, way too systemic. It's watching 23 players do the same things and make the same plays night after night. I already saw that picture being painted. Tampa Bay was interesting to some extent, but their opponents were boring, so TB ended up playing like their opponents most nights and relied on defensive play, rebounds, and fluke goals.
And the NHL wouldn't be bankrupt; the lost revenue in the playoffs would quickly be recovered after a few years of a system that actually attracts people to watch for entertainment reasons rather than being a culture-crutch[something they turn to because they have nothing better to do]. I've watched the game since the late 80s (it was boring), then it got more interesting after 1993 because it was no longer the Wayne Gretzkys and the Mario Lemieuxs winning the cup... it became more of a team game where you had to collect a group of players who played roles (but not grunts). Now it's back to the boring headline players that you have to get drafting top 5 rather than the "teams" winning the cup. Take away Jonathan Toews from Chicago; do they win the cup then? If the answer is no, then hockey isn't a team game... it's a "build a bunch of no-mistake-making grunts around a star" game, which is viewer unfriendly because most of the night is spent watching grunts do virtually nothing. There's a reason World Junior Hockey is more popular... there are far fewer "grunts" in it, and "grunt play" is even more rare.
I already know that nothing I suggest would ever be implemented unless the game went through a crisis, but I think there's a chance a lot of people, like me, are far more entertained by the managerial aspect of the NHL than the actual game--which means they look most forward to the trade deadline, the draft, and free agent signings and just end up checking scores online).
Add: My, my, the snark!