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Jamie Looks Back At The NHL's Opening Round

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
SeagateI feel for the Nashville Predators because they are a very good hockey team and they didn’t advance past the 1st round.  It’s not a total surprise that the team with the 3rd most points in the NHL lost, we’ve seen upsets before.   It’s that they lost to the team with the 5th most points in the NHL.  Something isn’t right here!
Here are some questions that lead to my proposal for a new playoff format.
  • Is there a way to create a more balanced travel schedule during the playoffs?  This includes miles traveled and time changes.
  • Not many people will argue that parity reigns in the ‘new NHL’.  But, is there parity among both conferences?  I don’t think the East is as strong as the West right now.  We know things are cyclical, but wouldn’t it be nice to see which conference is stronger when it matters most, the playoffs?  Not to mention we won’t hear the “will the winner of the West have anything left when they get to the Stanley Cup finals”. 
  • Dream Stanley Cup match-ups don’t happen often, but in the current playoff structure here are some match-ups we will never see.  Montreal vs Toronto; Rangers vs Islanders; Edmonton vs Calgary.  Of course there are others, but you get the point.
  • Right now fans only see teams from the other conference every three years.  Fans from both conferences have an opportunity to see different teams, different stars when it matters most. 
So here is my proposal for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The NHL creates a bracket style tournament and in the 1st round there are crossover match-ups between each conference.
I would keep the current structure in place which determines the playoff seedings.  Winning a division still means something and creates interesting races down the stretch. The top 3 seeds in each conference are the division winners, followed by the top point getters determining the 4th thru 8th seeds. 
There is one major downside to this format.  There will no longer be trophy presentations to the team that wins their respective conference.  Wait a minute, the players don’t even want to touch that trophy let alone kiss it or get a picture with it.  Ok, so it’s not a downside!
Series A  -  East 1 vs West 8  -- Buffalo (1) vs Calgary (13)
Series B  -  West 4 vs East 5  -- Nashville (3) vs Pittsburgh (10)
Series C  -  West 2 vs East 7  -- Anaheim (4) vs Tampa Bay (15)
Series D  -  East 3 vs West 6  -- Atlanta (12) vs Dallas (6)
Series E  -  West 1 vs East 8  -- Detroit (2) vs NY Islanders (16)
Series F  -  East 4 vs West 5  -- Ottawa (9) vs San Jose (5)
Series G  -  East 2 vs West 7  -- New Jersey (7) vs Minnesota (11)
Series H  -  West 3 vs East 6  -- Vancouver (8) vs NY Rangers (14)
ROUND 2 – Quarterfinals
Series I  -  Winner Series A vs Winner Series B
Series J  -  Winner Series C vs Winner Series D
Series K -  Winner Series E vs Winner Series F
Series L  - Winner Series G vs Winner Series H
ROUND 3 – Semifinals
Series M  -  Winner Series I vs Winner Series J
Series N  -  Winner Series K vs Winner Series L
ROUND 4 – Stanley Cup
Series O -  Winner Series M vs Winner Series N
1st Round Memories
  • Patrick Rissmiller coughing up the puck twice in the last minute of a one goal game, the second one leading to the tying goal for Nashville AND THEN scoring the winning goal in double overtime to give the Sharks the victory.
  • Marty Turco with three shutouts and still losing the series to Vancouver in seven games.
  • Atlanta making the playoffs for the 1st time in franchise history and bowing out to the Rangers in four straight.  Ouch!
  • The Sidney Crosby playoff era begins in a losing cause against the Ottawa Senators.  Why do I think this won’t be the last time we see Sid in the playoffs and I am sure he’ll be going much further in the years to come.
  • Johan Franzen takes an inexplicable cheap shot from Jamie McLennan near the end of Game 5 and then scores the series winning goal in double overtime in game 6.  Yes, justice was served.
  • It’s all about the handshake.  Nashville wanted to try and intimate the Sharks with dirty hockey, but as Captain Patrick Marleau said, it’s all about knowing you won the series when you are shaking their hands.  If teams think they can push around the Sharks, or intimidate them, then they might consider calling Jordin Tootoo from the Preds to see what he thinks.
  • Kudos to the New York Islanders who put up a valiant effort against a very good Buffalo team.
  • Keeping Things in Perspective.  We are once again reminded that we should appreciate each day as the Sharks organization lost two tremendous people during the 1st round.  Warren Strelow, goalie coach extraordinaire, helped turn the Sharks into what some call ‘a goalie factory’.  Gaeten Duchesne, who tragically died at the age of 44, was a key contributor to the success of the 1994 team and came back to annual alumni events to share his wonderful smile, personality and outlook on life.  Both will be missed my family and friends.  .
For Seagate Technology's "In the Crease," I'm Jamie Baker.
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