St. Louis Blues: Current Playoff System Best…For Right Now

St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (90)Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (90)Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

For a league that has been around for 105 years, you would think the NHL could have figured out a tried and true playoff system. Surprisingly, instead, they have had a lot of different ways to decide the Stanley Cup, even just since the St. Louis Blues came into existence in 1967.

Prior to the NHL as we know it, the Stanley Cup was given to a league winner, somewhat similar to how the Premier League is decided. However, outside teams from the AHAC could challenge for the Cup.

While this is an overly simplistic explanation, think of pro wrestling. Some random owner comes out, throws down the challenge to the Cup winner and then gets a match, I mean game, against the current champion and can take all the marbles if they win.

Later, in the 1920s, the NHL champion won the O’Brien Cup. They would then play teams from the PCHA or Western Canada Hockey League for the Stanley Cup.

Prior to what we know as the Original Six era, there were various playoff formats. Sometimes there were three rounds back then.

When there were only six teams, four would make the two-round playoffs. When the Blues came into existence, the league went to a divisional format, guaranteeing a new franchise the chance to play in the Cup final.

Like it or not, the format was the only reason the St. Louis Blues won their division. It was the only reason they played in three straight Cup finals.

That format definitely favored the Blues. Other formats have not.

Often, fans have said the 1-8 seed format works best. That’s not always the case.

St. Louis often ran into years where they had fantastic teams. However, they would end up with a lower seed because they had all-time teams like Chicago or Detroit ahead of them.

Because those scenarios gave the division winners the top three seeds, the Blues were forced to be a four or a five seed. Their record may have put them as a two or three seed, but the format did them no favors.

The current system has been in place for awhile now. It has had its ups and downs too.

While it definitely builds rivalries with divisional opponents, it can come at a cost. St. Louis saw a lot of Chicago based on the current format. They had to face Nashville once when other opponents would have been better matchups.

It also presents problems beyond the first round. For example, if the Blues get beyond the first round this season, they are likely to face the Colorado Avalanche simply because that’s still part of the divisional section of the current format.

However, even with all that in mind, the current system favors the Blues the most – for now anyway.

The reason is because it actually gives the Blues their best matchup. The pundits can talk all they want about the Blues and Minnesota Wild being mirror images of each other, but the Blues are better head to head.

The old adage is you can throw out the regular season in the playoffs and, to an extent, that’s true. Based on the eye test, the Blues have taken the Wild to task in all their regular season games.

St. Louis dominated the Winter Classic game for the most part. They dominated much of their regular season series ending win, though a collapse led to an overtime win. The split game was a good Minnesota start, only for the Blues to have the comeback and overtime win.

The Blues got a little lax defensively, but they’ve outscored the Wild 16-12 in three games. St. Louis has more depth and can wear Minnesota down in a seven-game series.

All the other scenarios are a toss up.

In a regular, 1-8 seed format, the Blues have a lot more options to face. If they stayed tied, and thus had the tie breaker, or finished ahead of Minnesota, they would finish third.

That likely pits them against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues went 2-0-1 and outscored the Kings 12-6 in the regular season, but the unknown makes me leery.

On paper, the Blues should wipe the ice with the Kings. The worry should be whether they would show up and prove that or get taken to task by a team that is talented, but not likely ready for the playoff test just yet.

If St. Louis finished behind Minnesota, they’d probably have to face the Edmonton Oilers. They’re still so unproven that it should still be a win, but are Blues fans willing to test out this defense against the two top scorers in the NHL?

In a strictly points based playoff system, where divisional winners didn’t count toward seeding, the Blues could finish as high as second. That puts them against the Nashville Predators in most scenarios, though Dallas could also be the opponent in that possibility.

You’re right back in the divisional rival thing there. The Blues are a better team than either Nashville or Dallas, but they each present different problems

Against Nashville, the Blues won the series 3-0-1, but it was a track meet. St. Louis outscored them 23-14, so the Predators present problems the others don’t. While they might be smaller, they’re more physical than the Blues on many nights and more willing to engage in the kind of activities that won’t be penalized as much in the playoffs.

St. Louis went 3-1 against Dallas. They outscored them 11-7. Even so, don’t make me look at Jamie Benn for four to seven games. I can’t take it.

The bottom line is there’s no perfect playoff system that rewards all the good teams and doesn’t help out any team that doesn’t deserve it. There’s pros and cons to each one.

For now, the current system works best for the Blues. Out of all the teams, given how they’ve played against them, I would take my chances against Minnesota over almost any other team.

Nashville might have lost their starting goalie and Dallas is sputtering, but the Wild have brought out the best from the Blues in three games. It would not be an easy series, but the Blues need a good test like they had against Winnipeg in 2019.

Playing Colorado in the second round instead of a Western Conference Final would stink. I’ll still take my chances with that once the Blues got rolling as opposed to the unknown entity of Edmonton in the first round.

Could the Blues lose in the first round? Sure.

That is a possibility in any playoff format. Nobody saw the Kings winning as an eight seed, but they beat the opponents in front of them and got it done.

dark. Next. Two goals that cost the Blues in the 2020 playoffs

No matter the system, the Blues would have to do that too. However, if you knock off Minnesota and Colorado in the first two rounds, I’ll take my chances against a Pacific Division team by then when they’re more worn out.

For now, this playoff system works best. That might not be my answer next year because the scenario changes what we want from the system, so it’ll never be just right for all times.