Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Playoff format, NHL vs. NBA & dumb Fleury takes

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3341/" data-ylk="slk:Marc-Andre Fleury">Marc-Andre Fleury</a> has been spectacular, the revisionist history takes not so much. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Marc-Andre Fleury has been spectacular, the revisionist history takes not so much. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Well, after Thursday it’ll be conference finals time and it’s always weird when that happens.

Because on the one hand the playoffs are only technically half over, but we’ve quickly gone from two or three games a night minimum to just one, so it doesn’t feel like that. Especially because the first month of the playoffs flies by — there’s just so so much going on — and then things get d-r-a-w-n out by more days off between games, more media descending on a smaller number of cities, and all that kind of stuff.

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Anyway, weird thing, it seems like people are mostly worried about the playoff format still. Wonder if that’s a function of everyone thinking Vegas shouldn’t have made it or Boston shouldn’t have been eliminated yet or what, but anyway, let’s get to it:

Daniela asks: “Do you think the NHL would ever move towards a best-of-five format for the first round?”

Absolutely not.

There would be no real point to it for a lot of reasons, but the most pressing of them is that you lose out on potentially as many as four extra games’ worth of ticket revenues, concessions, and merch sales, plus the TV time and all that. Doesn’t make a lot of sense even if you’re trying to, I don’t know, save guys some extra wear and tear on the body.

At this point baseball is the only sport with a series-based playoff format that goes best-of-five, with the NBA having switched to best-of-seven in 2003. Baseball has the benefit of playing in 35,000- or 40,000-seat stadiums at a minimum and you can bet they’re closer to going seven games than five in the divisional series anyway.

You’re far more likely to get play-in games from the NHL to add to the length of the playoffs than see them get contracted. The only argument for the latter is that higher seeds are more likely to win longer series, so to go shorter would mean slightly more upsets. Probably like maybe one extra upset in every 20 or 30 series. It’s a small difference but it would happen.

I guess what I’m saying is: Who cares.

DMachetto asks: “Is ‘The Penguins should have kept Fleury’ the worst revisionist history take of the year?”

It’s a pretty bad one, yeah.

Not only because it ignores the cap considerations but also because the worst kind of people in the world are the Fleury stans who couldn’t accept any criticism of his play even when he sucked in the playoffs for like five straight years. They’ll still defend him over it to this day! It’s like Tom Wilson Derangement Syndrome if Tom Wilson had five years of being absolute crap and was the No. 1 reason the Caps got eliminated every year in the second round.

The other reason it’s dumb is that Fleury was a backup goalie even if they kept him. Do you think they were gonna let Matt Murray, who’s younger and cheaper, walk instead?

I’ll give you a good example of how dumb sports fans are about these things. When the Patriots traded Drew Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills, a not-insignificant number of people I knew in college were like, “Screw it, I’m a Bills fan now!” I haven’t kept up with these dumbasses after years of Patriots success with this Tom Brady character, so I don’t know if they just pretend they’re still Bills fans or what.

But I bet if you walk around Pittsburgh in the next few weeks you’re gonna see a lot of Golden Knights jerseys fresh from the customization factory. Then two years from now, every one those jerseys will be at the bottom of a closet somewhere in Oakland or whatever.

Josh asks: “What does Vegas do from here if they win the Cup?”

If they’re smart, they start selling high on everyone who had a career year. What they’ll probably do, instead, is assume Wild Bill Karlsson is a guaranteed 40-goal guy forever and give him too much money.

I mean, it happens with every team that wins a Cup — it’s not a Vegas thing. Teams win Cups and role players who had big years get insane money. So why should Vegas be any different? Because it’s an expansion team? They already gave away a first-, second-, and third-round pick for a guy who’s been healthy-scratched in the playoffs. They’re well past operating like they need to stock the cupboard. They think they’re a real team already.

So they’ll do what every other team does and make some dumb mistakes. Pretty cool!

Granville asks: “Is Filip Forsberg a superstar? On his way?”

It depends how you define “superstar.”

If you mean it in the “Is he an elite player at his position” way, then yeah he is definitely already one of those. He has 90 goals in his last 231 regular-season games for a team that didn’t really start scoring a lot until this season. All his underlying numbers are good, all that kind of thing. He’s awesome and he probably has another year or three of improvement before he starts to decline. He’s probably the sixth- or seventh-best left wing in the world today.

If you mean it in the “Do people show up to see him” way, then no he definitely isn’t. Those players are already few and far between in the NHL and while he’s really good, I doubt people are buying tickets to see even Brad Marchand, who’s better and certainly more noteworthy. Honestly, you can probably count the number of “I gotta buy a ticket to see this guy live” players in this league on two hands, max: McDavid, Crosby, Ovechkin, Karlsson, MacKinnon, maybe Matthews, maybe Stamkos, maybe Subban, maybe Hall? Does anyone go to see a goalie?

If you mean it in the “Would casual sports fans recognize him” way, hahahaha. Crosby, Ovechkin, and maybe Subban are probably the only three who meet that standard.

Bobby asks: “What’s better: the NHL’s playoffs, which gives “lesser” teams the chance to go further, or the NBA’s playoffs, which has the same powerhouses facing off every. Single. Year?”

I’m on record as loving super teams and if I have to watch the Raptors get crushed by LeBron every year then that’s fine with me. Seeing lesser teams advance, as in the NHL, isn’t as fun for me because it’s kind of anti-climactic. At some point, that underdog team is gonna get creamed, right? Or they’re going to play bad, boring hockey like the Senators did to keep games “close” but everyone will hate it.

At least with basketball, even sweeps can be fun and exciting because you get stuff like that LeBron buzzer-beater in Game 3. I can’t wait until we figure out a way to have super teams in hockey.

Yolo Pinyato asks: “Why has the NHL had its most interesting playoffs in years, with a diverse and intriguing set of players and yet has still struggled to have any of them appeal to the casual fan?”

I’ve said this a lot before but I don’t think casual hockey fans exist. That stuff about, “If you expose them to the product live, they fall in love with it” is mostly true, but there’s not some secret silent majority out there.

The ratings either stay the same or go down as the playoffs go on. Why? Because hockey fans aren’t hockey fans. They’re team fans. Why did you never hear about how great of a hockey market Las Vegas was before this season? Because they were given a team to care about. Now, as I’m sure you’ve read, they’re one of the best markets!!!!!

Just wait until Vegas gets eliminated and see if people there stick around to see the next round after that. Here’s a clue: They won’t because no one does. At that point, they will finally be real hockey fans, by which I mean, “Only fans of their local team and that’s literally it.”

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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