Remember when playoffs used to mean something? A reward for having a winning season, playing the select few, the best of the best and a chance at the ultimate trophy, the Calder Cup?
Yeah, me too.
Thursday, the American Hockey League announced the new playoff format which will debut in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Here it is in a tweet:
No, you read that right, TWENTY THREE TEAMS will qualify for the playoffs next season. Not eight, not sixteen, TWENTY THREE teams, or 75% of the league.
To follow simply, if you finish in the bottom two of your division, you didn’t make it. Better luck next year.
The release tries to sell this ridiculous format by citing playoff experience and postseason development and yammers on about 150 more players getting said experience.
It’s watering down a product which has become so diluted it is hardly recognizable anymore.
You have 31 teams this season, 32 when Palm Springs comes in in 2022-23 all playing differing schedules and different amount of games this season (68, 72 and 76, everyone plays 72 in 2022-23) – none of this matters when three-fourths of your league qualifies for a postseason. It doesn’t.
It’s not about the regular season. Hell, it may not very be about the postseason. It’s everyone gets a chance to play (unless you are one of the eight teams that don’t make it), good luck trying to sell a season ticket package on that pitch. “Well, everyone made it in the postseason last year EXCEPT us, but trust me, you are going to want to spend your money on us this season!!!”
You know what it is? It’s a participation trophy league now for grinding out a 68-76 game schedule this year and being essentially at or near average or better. Finish slightly below .500? Here’s a playoff spot!
Say you are a team that is a 6 seed in the Atlantic and you play 76 games and you win the Calder Cup, but in doing so every playoff series went the maximum allowable games. (27) – that is 103 games in one season. That’s insane. Or say you are that same team that runs up against a Pacific Division #1 seed that didn’t need as many games to get there. They are rested by, say half the amount of games in playoffs plus the 68 they played in the regular season. That’s 82 games. 103 to 82. Not fair.
Sure, it will help the Penguins, who I project to be a five or six seed this upcoming year, but if they finish sub .500, get dusted in two games in a playoff series, can you really call them a playoff team?
I don’t know, and I am getting to the point where I may not care to know anymore.
Enjoy your August.