An Unusual Season Calls for an Unusual NHL Draft Lottery Twist

There are still a lot of questions hanging in the air regarding the NHL and a potential return to complete the 2019-20 season. It feels like we’re a long way off from getting any clarity on regular season games being played or jumping right into the playoffs. Whether or not regular season games are restarted or if the league jumps right to the postseason there will be plenty of action available for ice hockey betting on NHL games.

No need for flash cards in this format.

Last week I floated a few different ways the NHL could tackle their postseason, should they be forced to take a new approach with the playoffs. Assuming the league expands the playoff format, there would only be a handful of teams left in the dark on clawing back some of their lost revenue. So what if the NHL took a different approach with those teams in awarding spots in the draft lottery?

This is an unusual season which almost certainly requires the league to utilize a different playoff format. Why not do the same with the draft lottery and plug the non-playoff teams into a tournament of their own to win the top picks? Continue reading

Tackling a Coronavirus Affected NHL Playoff Format

The utterly unprecedented response to COVID-19 has ground practically everything to a halt around the world. Hockey hasn’t been immune to that as leagues throughout North America and Europe have paused or canceled their seasons while the NHL is on indefinite hiatus.

The stoppage has left everyone wondering if or when the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be played. And if they’re played, what format will the league utilize? A lot of rumors have been floated thus far. One rumored format would see the playoffs expanded to account for a 24-team field. A plan formulated by some players would even see regular season games played. But just Wednesday, Pierre LeBrun quoted Bill Daly as saying anything they pursue would not impact the ability to play a full year in 2020-21.

There are so many balls up in the air at the moment. Some days it seems as if leagues, especially the NHL, are anticipating a quick return to play. Other days it seems as if we may not see any action again until the fall. With the CDC’s latest recommendations, it seems like the earliest we’d see any sports return would be June. Possibly late May.

I find it very hard to believe the NHL would be able to return with any sort of a regular season slate. The proposal reported by TSN would see preparations and play extend all the way into October, which seems preposterous to me. Given the current state of affairs, it seems that the most logical solution is for the league to adopt a modified playoff format and salvage what they can of the 2019-20 season. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox: Olofsson Contract, Coronavirus Playoffs and Goalie Options

It’s been quite a while since I rolled out a mailbag and as this is a pretty long one, we might as well jump right in. Thanks to everyone for submitting your questions.

@strikeforcetim How would you format the postseason/award the Cup this year?

I’m going to steal the plan Elliotte Friedman floated on this week’s 31 Thoughts podcast because I think it makes the most sense on just about every level. His theory would be to give every non-wildcard team a first-round bye and then set up two play-in series between the next two teams in each division to determine the fourth team through to the next round.

Based on his approach, the play-in match ups in the East would be between the Panthers and Canadiens and the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. In the west it would be the Jets, Predators, Canucks and Coyotes. His idea called for a two-game set, played in one arena and determined by total goals. Later in the podcast he detailed an idea floated by some around the league that would actually incorporate more teams (as many as 24) in play-in scenarios. That seemed a little far-fetched to me, although it might not be so bad if it meant the Sabres were a “playoff” team.

There are only two things I’d change about Friedman’s initial plan. The first would be changing the play-in teams from the next two in each division to the next four in the wild card race. Pitting the next two teams from each division would eliminate teams higher in the standings and closer to the wild card race that was suspended. Simply picking the top four teams in the wild card race would reward the teams who would have been most harmed by the current shutdown. The other change I’d make would be to the two-game play in. Friedman suggested total goals and allowing ties with the only sudden death coming in the second game. I’d prefer both games to be played to a conclusion as opposed to aggregate goals since it’s almost certain there would be some sort of controversy born from that decision. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.29 – Round One Reax and Sabres Coaching Search Updates

With round one of the playoffs in the rear view, we offer up some thoughts on what transpired in the first round, specifically the questionable officiating which seemed to underscore almost every series. We also touch on some of the talking points coming out of Toronto and what’s next for the Sabres coaching search. More names have surfaced as targets for the Sabres and we run down some of the key candidates as we wrap up the show.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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The Instigator Podcast 7.28 – Applying Kekalainen’s Deadline to the 2007 Sabres

In the wake of the first two eliminations in this year’s playoffs, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Jarmo Kekalainen’s aggressive trade deadline strategy may have been applied to the 2007 Sabres. So we endeavored to apply a similar approach to what the Sabres could have done in 2007 while staying within the limits of the salary cap and realistic moves that were available at that time. Along the way we unpack the series sweeps suffered by the Penguins and Lightning, discuss the signings of Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson and touch on the disappointing attendance at this year’s Frozen Four.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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The Instigator Podcast 5.41 – Analyzing Bylsma’s Future in Buffalo

A big topic of conversation during Tim Murray’s final press conference centered around Dan Bylsma’s effectiveness as Buffalo’s head coach and what appears to be a rapidly closing window on his tenure. Prior to jumping into the outlook on Bylsma, Chris and Tyler offer up their playoff picks, some of which look a bit iffy after just a day and a half of action.

Proposing a change to the NHL series format

There’s no question that the NHL Playoffs are the greatest part of every season. An easy argument could be made that the postseason tournament is the best amongst the four major sports. The series format, structure and seeding are nearly perfect with the change back to the divisional format this season.

While there isn’t a thing I’d change about the playoffs in their current form, I’ve wondered recently about an adjustment to the series structure. The idea shuffles the order in which the games are played to not only add value to home ice advantage, but to give the higher seed an extra opportunity to clinch a series on home ice.

The NHL model, as it stands now follows a 2-2-1-1-1 format with the home team hosting games one, two, five and seven. It is far superior to the NBA’s awful, horrible, no good 2-3-2 order that sees the higher seed forced to the road for three straight games. The system that I’m proposing would see the lower seed host the first two games while giving the higher seed four of the final five games. Continue reading

2ITB second round predictions

For the third-straight season I rolled up six out of eight correct playoff series predictions in the first round. I fully expect to almost completely whiff on my second round predictions for the third-straight season.

While I swung and missed on my Cup Finals prediction, I managed to guess most of the second round participants and I’ll now provide my predictions for the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

This will be a very interesting series to follow. The main storyline is the Penguins struggles in net but this will really come down to Pittsburgh’s firepower matching up against Craig Anderson and Ottawa’s ability to defend. Pittsburgh has a deep offensive lineup that would create ugly matchup choices for an All Star team, let alone the seventh seed in the playoffs. If Paul MacLean can work his magic and Anderson stays hot, this will be a long series.

Why Pittsburgh will win: Firepower is the name of the game for the Penguins. They outscored their way to the second round with little more than average goaltending supporting their back legs. This is an offensive juggernaut which also has a pair of bottom six lines capable of mixing offense and defense quite nicely. Goaltending will obviously be an issue and the hot button issue until Tomas Vokoun proves he can carry this team.

Why Ottawa will win: The Senators have continuously proven that they’re capable of overcoming and they did a fine job of that all year. They certainly weren’t overmatched by the Canadiens but I feel they will be in many ways during this series. However, if they can find offensive success they should have little issue being very competitive against this team

Outcome: Penguins in six Continue reading

Vokoun should be the only choice for Pittsburgh

Marc-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun. That’s the decision that Dan Bylsma has to make before tomorrow’s game one against Ottawa. This is a vitally important choice, but it may not be as difficult as some are indicating.

The Penguins sat through two-straight first round exits in which Marc-Andre Fleury just wasn’t good enough for them (particularly last year). Their first round series with the Islanders was heading off the tracks before Vokoun was inserted and notched a pair of wins that sent the Penguins into the second round. However, Fleury is Pittsburgh’s five million dollar man while Vokoun is the emergency chute signed last summer as insurance for the Pens’ Cup winning netminder.

This year’s flame out marked the third-straight first round series in which Fleury’s save percentage didn’t rise above .900. It also gives Fleury 57 goals against (on 453 shots) over just 17 games these past three years. Vokoun has only played a pair of games behind the Penguins this post season but the solution for Blysma should be simple; play the hot hand.

When it comes to goaltending the key is playing the goalie who gives your team the best opportunity to win. As of right now, Fleury is not that player for the Penguins. Some debate will proceed over what a prolonged benching will do for his psyche but I wouldn’t be concerned with that currently. This is a team that served up a hefty ransom to obtain a trio of deadline pieces that would elevate them to a Cup Finals appearance. If Vokoun gives this cast the best opportunity to win then it shouldn’t matter who he’s replacing. Continue reading