Wild-card race: Good or bad thing? Discuss.
Scott Burnside: The current system is busted. Want to do something really wacky? I had a great chat about this recently with Washington-based journalist Ben Raby, who had a novel idea for expanding the playoff picture to include one-game play-in games between the seventh- and 10th-place teams and the eighth- and the ninth-place teams, with the winners of each game slotting into the two final playoff spots in each conference. I'm not a huge fan of play-in games in general, but as Raby pointed out, this creates pressure to avoid falling into seventh place in the conference, which isn't a bad thing, and it creates the potential for meaningful benefits to being one of the top two teams because you could end up with a ninth- or 10th-place team in the first round. And there are a couple more home dates in each conference for owners to consider. Of course, one of the great flaws of the current system is that it sets up the possibility -- like this year -- of three of the top four teams in the NHL coming from one division -- in this case, the Metropolitan -- and the fourth-place team, the New York Rangers, will have an easier matchup as a wild-card team than the teams in second and third place (the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets).
Pierre LeBrun: I still believe, as I wrote in a column March 16, that it's time to drop the wild cards. The problem with the wild card is that it's a halfway measure between two formats: fully divisional- or fully conference-based. I can live with either but the in-between solution we have now has to go. Decide which way you want to go, all-division like the 1980s, or all-conference like we had before this current format, and stick to it. The current format has two more years on the agreement with the NHLPA. We need a change after that.
Craig Custance: I agree with the consensus here. It's time for a playoff format change. And really, the Western Conference race hasn't been especially compelling this season, unless you're really into seeding. I've never understood the resistance to a play-in game. It would add revenue, interest and give us a couple must-see games right before the playoffs. It'd be great.
Joe McDonald: I enjoy the current format because it allows the chance to build postseason rivalries. It can be frustrating for fans that teams with better records and more points land in the wild-card spot (see Rangers, New York) because of the current format. It can also set up easier matchups and deeper runs for some teams. But it really doesn't matter where a team finishes in the standings because once it's in, anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs. We've seen that numerous times in the past.