NHL could learn from new women's hockey league playoff and draft formats

NHL could learn from new women's hockey league playoff and draft formats

The PWHL has accomplished a lot even though it’s only been in existence for a few months. It has set records for attendance. It has sealed the cracks in women’s hockey that had formed. It has given momentum to women’s hockey below the international level, which had been stuck in neutral thanks to splits between groups and leagues.

And now it’s the first league to pick a playoff system that is happy to accept a little spice to it.

So the team that finishes the regular season at the top gets to declare whom they think they are more likely to beat, which will make any series just a little more personal. It’s easy to see where a third- or fourth-place team, especially the third-place team, carries a large chip on its shoulder by being the one chosen as the easier path to the final. Certainly it will rile the fans of whatever team gets chosen and keep them more locked in. And certainly more people are more likely to seek out watching a series that begins with a narrative instead of having to develop one over the first couple games. It’s a grudge match before a puck is dropped, which helps a league that hasn’t really had time to develop organic rivalries yet.

That’s not all the PWHL does that will be music to the ears of hockey fans. One, it’s already been running a 3-2-1-0 points system, which means that regulation wins are worth more than OT or shootout wins. Which is something that NHL fans have been screaming for in that league for a while now, because wins in 60 minutes before getting to gimmicks to decide a winner should be more valuable.

The PWHL is also going with the reverse draft order system, meaning that the No. 1 pick in the draft will be awarded to whichever team collects the most points after being eliminated from playoff contention in the regular season. Now, this will work better when there are more than six teams, as only two teams will miss the playoffs. Secondly, PWHL contracts aren’t really long enough to push players to give it their all for draft picks they may not play with. We don’t even know if tanking was going to be a problem in this league, which is exclusive enough at the moment to keep really good players out because there just isn’t enough space for them.

But it also could be said that it’s good to get this in now before expansion, and it’s different, and there’s nothing wrong with a new league trying to stand out and trying something new.

The PWHL already has a core, a big core, of women’s hockey fans. But in order to be more successful, i.e. bring in more just general hockey fans, it’s a great ploy to give them things that they want out of the leagues they already watch. Hockey fans aren’t all that different than other sports’ fans in that tanking isn’t something anyone likes. The three-point system of the NHL keeps fake-parity the theme of the day far too much. Giving the team that is best in the regular season something to take advantage by making the regular season worth something extra. It’s all worth a try at worst.

This is a complaint about the NWSL, which has a much easier route to promotion/relegation with the USL Super League coming online, or a single table/no playoff system. Or even a more step-laddered playoff system to make the season more meaningful, two things MLS simply hasn’t provided soccer fans. NWSL could, but hasn’t yet.

The PWHL certainly can’t be accused of not being brave and not catering to tastes of all hockey fans. Fortune favors the brave.

Making heads or tails of latest CONCACAF silliness

Sticking in the women’s sports category, the most CONCACAF thing happened in the Women’s Gold Cup last night, meaning that at least CONCACAF goofiness knows no gender. The tournament has expanded to 12 teams this year, but still wants eight teams to move on. With the tourney split into three groups of four, that meant that all the group winners and all the second-place teams advanced. But only two of the three third-place teams advance. Argentina finished with four points, so they’re through. But Puerto Rico and Costa Rica both finished with three points. With a -2 goal-differential. Both having scored two goals. Both having given up four goals. There was no way to split them other than a coin flip:

Costa Rica won the toss. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere. 

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.