clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Monday Thoughts: Dea back from the A, NHL mulls playoff changes, Pens have daunting upcoming schedule

Random thoughts around the Pittsburgh Penguins and their upcoming schedule, JS Dea, should the NHL tweak their playoff format?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition - Save Streak Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Some random Monday thoughts:

The AHL to NHL yo-yo has swung back for Jean-Sebastien Dea who has been recalled again after spending the weekend with Wilkes-Barre. It’ll be interesting to see how long he stays considering that Carter Rowney is progressing well in his return from injury and probably won’t be out for too much longer.


January has felt pretty slack for the Penguins (and NHL in general) with the bye week and a four day All-Star break. That changes soon. Pittsburgh practices at 3PM today and tomorrow starts a stretch of 10 games in 20 days to take us up to February 18th. At which point the Pens get another 4-day break of days off.

This immediate stretch will be tough- the next 6 games (SJ, WSH, @NJ, Vegas, @DAL, @STL) are all against teams in the playoffs as of today. Add in a game too in this stretch against LA and that’s 6 of the next 8 against Western teams too, against which the Pens have struggled this year with just an 8-12-3 record against the other conference.

Also, weirdly enough, Saturday’s game against the Devils (#54 on the season for Pittsburgh) will be just the first NJD-PIT matchup of the entire 2017-18 season. They meet 4 times total all in February or March.


Daniel Sprong is back in the AHL and pulled out this move for a breakaway relay.

Can’t teach skill like that and the cream will rise to the top. Patience.


If you dislike the NHL’s playoff format, it seems likely that change will be discussed, if not implemented pretty soon. From Craig Custance of The Athletic:

In a small scrum with reporters after the press conference, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the playoff process is one that will be driven by the league’s general managers. And the reality is, if the GMs want change, it doesn’t matter if Seattle is added or not. Their next meeting is March 19-21 in Boca Raton, Florida, and a small polling of GMs done by The Athletic via email suggests it’s quite likely that a discussion about the playoff format will be on the agenda.

“(I’m) open to exploring change,” responded one GM.

Another GM liked the idea of the top eight in each conference making it, with the top two in each division locking in a playoff spot while giving the remaining spots to the best finishers in each conference regardless of division.

The most emphatic answer came from a Western Conference GM, when he was asked about how much appetite he had to change the current system.

“Lots,” he said in an e-mail to The Athletic. “I’m open to a lot of different structures, including expanding the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs.”

So yeah, don’t be surprised if this is a hot topic at the spring GM meeting in Florida.

As for the players, NHLPA executive Donald Fehr said that opinions vary based on the individual players but the biggest concern typically raised among his membership is fairness.

Under the current format, designed to amplify natural rivalries, the first two rounds of playoffs are typically divisional semifinals and finals. This creates issues though as perfectly exemplified in last year’s Metropolitan Division where 3 of the top 4 regular seasons in the entire league had to play in the same bracket. The Pens (#2) of course knocked off 4th in the league Columbus and then Presidents Trophy winning Washington en route to the Stanley Cup. This de-emphasizes the regular season when your playoff path gets no breaks, but such is life and good teams can only be dodged for so long.

It’ll be interesting to see what the GMs want, many suspect they could go back to the old format of 1st seed in the conference vs. 8th, 2v7, etc. That may be more “fair” but also makes playoffs less interesting when you’ve got PIT/OTT or other matchups that don’t have a lot of pop behind them. Fairness or not, there’s something cool about having higher odds to see the ilk of the Caps, NYR, CBJ in the playoffs every year. That has helped grow some intense feelings over the past 4 seasons. Perhaps they can find a way to re-seed the playoffs to reward high performing regular season teams for the 2nd and 3rd rounds, but count us among the minority that enjoys the current system that emphasizes playing teams fans care about beating more in the early rounds.