Penguins lose another player for year + Solving draft and playoff format
It wasn’t meant to be this year for Nick Bjugstad.
He joins Dominik Simon, who had shoulder surgery, as the other Penguin not available for the playoffs if the league actually hosts games.
Nick Bjugstad hasn’t been much of a factor since coming over from the Panthers so while it does put a little bit of a dent in the depth not as much as what was expected at the time of the trade. He’s only played in 45 games and had 16 points. Although he did center a really good possession line with Hornqvist and Simon albeit with minimal offensive results. With Simon already out that line was never going to be back in action. The Penguins have since acquired Jason Zucker, Conor Sheary, Evan Rodigues, Brandon Tanev, and Patrick Marleau. It isn’t like they are short NHL depth at the moment.
If you are reading this blog you are also likely staying up with the NHL’s news cycle. A lot of it has focused on the 24 team playoffs and the draft lottery. People are trying to figure out what is fair given the situation. It is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish because this situation is incredibly difficult. Also, the NHL isn’t usually interested in what is the most fair anyways. Draft lotteries and bracket style playoff formats are poor choices given what could be done. There are two formats that would eliminate these issues.
First let’s talk about the 24 team tournament. Playoff seeding has some teams wondering what their reward was for the regular season. I’ll use the Penguins because this is a Penguins blog. They are currently the 5th seed in the East and the 7th seed overall in the entire league. They are in a play-in game and then depending on the NHL’s decision to reseed or not may be playing one of the top four teams in the tournament next. There is a fair argument maybe the Penguins should have lost eight out of their last 11 games to close out this year’s version of the regular season. Totally legit to point that out. It’s also fair to point out there was nothing gained by being the 7th best team in the league. Keep in mind Sid only played 41 games, Malkin only 55, and a host of other injuries including Brian Dumoulin for damn near the entire season. All teams have injuries, all I’m saying is that I understand the frustration the Penguins are probably feeling with this setup even though they voted in favor of it.
At the very least the league needs to reseed after every round. This bracket nonsense needs to end. Nobody thinks this is March Madness. NHL fans fill out a bracket the day they put them out on the NHL’s website and then a bunch of people post screenshots on Twitter. Then nobody cares. It comes at the cost of negating any advantage earned in the regular season. The most fun and most interesting way to make things “fair” during this pandemic tournament would be to let the top seeds choose their opponents. No play-in round. All 12 teams from each conference are in the first round. The benefit of the Bruins finishing first in the league would be to pick whoever the hell they want to play and so on down the list. What is fairer than picking your destiny? This league is a crapshoot as it is, at least let there be some ownership of the path the top seeds have. This is a perfect season for it. You already have 24 teams eligible. All normalcy has been thrown out the window. The TV event to choose opponents would be worth it to get eyes on your league when nothing else is going on. You can’t claim things are unfair with this setup. It rewards the best teams as much as teams can be rewarded. It creates drama. It is entertaining.
Let’s say during training camp there is an injury to a team’s star player and totally changes the framework of that team. You could choose them even though they might have finished higher in the standings. You own the risk/reward.
Or don’t reseed and do the stupid bracket thing again.
As far as drafting goes the lottery is antiquated and shouldn’t be a thing anymore. I know it has to be a thing for this offseason, but they don’t have to allow any of the eight losers from the play-in round into the lottery. It complicates things for no reason. Let the crappy seven teams get their draft odds and be done with it. Let this be the last draft lottery.
Moving forward there are two directions the league could take. One is extreme and they’ll never consider it, eliminating the draft and making all players UFA’s. A hard cap discourages the same teams from buying up all the young talent every year. The more reasonable and less drastic solution is Micah Blake McCurdy’s Gold Drafting plan. It is simple. The day a team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs they start earning standings points towards the top pick. If you are the first team eliminated you have the longest sample size to earn those points. The catch being you were the first team eliminated and thus are not a good team. It might be harder to earn those points. You would have time on your side, though. This would eliminate complete tanking that many people dislike. It would really energize fan bases around the league for teams out of the Stanley Cup picture. It would take the mystery of ping pong balls out of the equation. It would be simplistic and way more interesting for everyone involved. All those Sabres games on national TV would actually have a purpose.
Micah takes it a step further with this tweak:
You are a bubble team for the playoffs. Do you go for the home ice ticket sales for round 1 or do you declare yourself out and go for the top pick? Imagine the message boards arguing about those situations. It would add another interesting dynamic to the season and storylines. Interesting is good in an entertainment business.
The fact remains the NHL usually goes down the more boring and more convoluted paths when given a chance. The pandemic is no different.
Thanks for reading!