5 Ways to Make the Stanley Cup Playoffs More Entertaining for NHL Fans
The Stanley Cup playoffs have been called by many the most exciting of all playoffs, but it is fair to say that a tiebreaker for the final spots in each conference and an HBO 24/7 playoff documentary would make the playoffs even more exciting for fans.
In order to win the Stanley Cup, teams needs to run through a gauntlet of rounds that could last a maximum of 28 playoff games. That alone makes the playoffs very exciting, but the NHL should always be looking for ways to add some drama and excitement to the playoffs.
With that in mind, here are five ways the Stanley Cup Playoffs could be made more exciting for NHL fans.
1. Make First Round Series a Best of Five
Under the current playoff format, each series is a best of seven, but to make the playoffs more exciting, the NHL could consider making the quarterfinals a best of five series.
Although the best-of-seven series adds character to the playoffs, eliminating two games from the first round could have some positive effects that add excitement for fans.
The quarterfinals kick off the playoffs, and by eliminating two quarterfinal games, each game would mean more, teams would have to approach each game differently and there would be more intensity each night. Although teams bring intensity to each playoff game, there would be a greater sense of urgency for teams that lost Game 1.
After losing the first game, the losing team would have only two more games to turn around the series instead of the three they currently have, and that would change the way teams prepare for each game.
This used to be the format for the first round of the playoffs, and reverting to this format would inject some excitement into a first round series that can sometimes be boring because of No. 1 vs. No. 8 mismatches.
2. Add a Tiebreaker Game for the No. 8 and No. 9 Seeds
Although the current playoff system will change next season, the NHL could have made the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs more exciting by making a subtle change to the playoff format. This season the No. 8 races in both conferences came down to the wire, and to add excitement the NHL could have had a showdown for the final spot in each conference.
Can you imagine the ratings that a Minnesota Wild vs. Columbus Blue Jackets game for the final playoff spot would have received? When you consider how hot Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets played down the stretch, it is fair to say that tons of fans would tune in to see who would claim the final playoff spot.
This would add some novelty to the playoffs, and it is possible that casual fans would tune in to see a playoff spot get decided at the end of the regular season. By putting the final spot up for grabs in a final exhibition, it would give teams an incentive to finish higher than No. 8, and it would make playoff spots more meaningful.
3. Top 16 Team Playoff Format
Each year, the NHL's Stanley Cup final features the Western Conference champion versus the Eastern Conference champion, but can you imagine if a playoff format allowed the Boston Bruins to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final? Conversely, what about a Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings matchup for the Stanley Cup Final?
It would be pretty exciting to see a playoff format that included the top 16 teams in the league. It would effectively get rid of the West and East separation of teams and teams that earned a playoff spot by just being the best team in a very bad division.
Just for an example, here is the playoffs would have looked this year if this format was in effect.
No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 16 New York Islanders
No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 15 Minnesota Wild
No. 3 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 14 Ottawa Senators
No. 4 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 13 Detroit Red Wings
No. 5 Boston Bruins vs. No. 12 New York Rangers
No. 6 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 11 San Jose Sharks
No. 7 Los Angeles Kings vs. No. 10 Washington Capitals
No. 8 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 9 Toronto Maple Leafs
These matchups would make the first round very interesting, and the results in later rounds could be even better.
4. HBO 24/7: Stanley Cup Playoffs Edition
Since its inception, HBO's 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic has been a popular series that gives fans an inside look at NHL franchises. The HBO series takes fans behind the scenes into the locker room and it gives fans a unique look at the inner workings of two NHL teams. Cameras roll throughout games and capture moments on the bench and other personal moments during the four weeks leading up to the Winter Classic.
A copious amount of footage is captured for the documentary, and the series is one of the best parts of the NHL season. Although the odds of the NHL allowing HBO to follow teams throughout the playoffs are low, an HBO series documenting the NHL playoffs would add tons of excitement.
5. Expand Mic'd Up for Players on the Ice
This idea is a realistic variation of slide No. 4's idea about creating an HBO 24/7 series focusing on the playoffs. Due to the fact that a 24/7 series might not be possible because of potential distractions it could cause during the playoffs, adding more microphones to players on the ice would make things exciting for fans at home.
The current mic'd up segment used on NBC captures players during warm-ups, before the game in the locker room and during other moments throughout the game. This current program gives fans a rather tame look at what players are saying on the ice, and it should be expanded.
Fans who watched 24/7 got an appreciation for the "colorful nature" of coaches like John Tortorella, Peter Laviolette and Bruce Boudreau, and it is fair to say they would love to hear what they are like during the playoffs.
All fans understand that playoff hockey is rough, violent and full of "color," and capturing those moments of players chirping back and forth would increase excitement and ratings for each series.