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Yes, But
A Radical Proposal to Fix the Stanley Cup Playoffs
12/19/08 - By Paul Krill

Right now, the Sharks are in a position where we can say, "Yes, they're playing great, but it's the playoffs that really count." And the Sharks record in those playoffs has been, well, disappointing.

Under the current system, a team that scrapes into the playoffs, underperforms and gets the eighth and final spot must win 16 games to take the Stanley Cup. Under this same system, a team that plays fantastic all season and coasts to the top seed must win - well, it also must win 16 games to take the trophy.

This equalization of the bad and the good during the playoffs cheapens the value of the regular season, dismisses the accomplishments of the top teams and rewards the not-so-great teams that barely made it.

Years ago, this system helped the Sharks. Who can forget the Sharks, losing record and all, winning their first-ever playoff series from the eighth spot, knocking out the top-ranked Red Wings? In 2000, the Sharks did the same thing, eliminating the Presidents Trophy-winning Blues.

But lately, the worm has turned.

In three of the past four seasons, the Sharks have been sent to the golf course by lower seeded teams who happened to be playing better at the time. So that's the secret - get hot in May. Who cares what you did in December?

Perhaps it's time to give the top seeded teams a bit more of a reward for their regular season efforts than an extra home playoff game and also make those regular season games more valuable. What I'm proposing is that in the first two rounds, make the series best-of-six. The top seeds need to win three games to advance. The lower seeds need to win four games to move on. A three-three series tie goes to the top seed. The lower seed must win four games to two or better.

These series would be played like this: first two games at top seed, third and fourth games at lower seed, final two games at top seed. Lower seeded teams upset at losing the revenue from a third home game will need to do better next season so they can get the higher seed.

This system would only be in use for the first two rounds. The marquee Conference and Cup Finals match-ups stay best-of-seven.

Yes, we know the Sharks lost in six games anyway to Dallas last spring. But in the previous series against Calgary, the Sharks were up three games to two before that series went seven games. Think the Sharks might have done better against Dallas if they only had to play five games against Calgary instead of seven? You bet.

Imagine the excitement of regular season games late in the year as teams battle to take the fourth spot instead of the fifth. And in this system, teams that had to win four games in the first series might only need to win three in the second round, should all the lower seeds end up winning their first series. And, of course, this system might shorten the season by a few days so that the Stanley Cup Finals don't happen so close to the Fourth of July.

Yes, this is a radical proposal that will never go anywhere. But I hope it's something to think about.

Contact Paul at at


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