It’s the popular thing to say these days: “I want my team to get the 6th seed in order to play team XYZ!” This year, team XYZ is the Panthers.
What a terrible thing to wish upon your team. Can you say short term benefit at the expense of the long term? However, to justify their position, they’ll say the equally ignorant: “But home ice advantage isn’t important, stupid.”
How does something that is just flat out false become common knowledge? I mean, as far as I know, NHL playoff positions aren’t discussed on cable news. Home ice advantage is without a doubt a major predictor in whether or not you’ll win the Cup. Since the start of the current era (1992 to present), only one team out of 18 Cup winners has not entered the playoffs as a top 4 seed. And that team was the 5thseed New Jersey Devils in 1994-95, where the lockout shortened the season to 48 games, lowering the regular season sample size.
Of course, after the first round is over, you could lose your home ice for a round or two depending on your seeding. But go ahead and be happy that you don’t have home ice advantage even in the first round. According to recent NHL history, you have no chance of winning the Cup. In total, a non-division winning team only won the Cup three times in the current era.
And no, it’s obviously not impossible to win with a low seed, but the reasons for wanting the 6th spot are just plain silly. In the case of the desire to play the Panthers, you’re missing the fact that you’re going to have to play the tough teams like the Rangers, Bruins, Penguins, and Flyers in order to make it out of the East. If you’re not good enough to do it in the Quarterfinals, what makes you think things will change in the Semifinal or Conference Final? In order to be the best, you’re going to have to beat the best.
So you want your team to lose in order to drop down a spot or two? Oh man, are you asking for it. Uh, don’t you want your team to be hot heading into the playoffs? How do you expect a team to turn on a dime from so-so play to strong playoff hockey? What happens if you end up dropping too much or the 7th or 8th seed gets a little hot and overtakes you and now all of a sudden you’re playing the Rangers or Penguins in the first round? What happens if the Capitals get red hot and take the division over the Panthers? You take destiny out of your own hands when you start messing around like this.
Maybe it’s just me, but I never ever want my team to do anything but win regardless of the circumstances. Whether it’s jockeying for playoff positioning or trying to get the #1 overall draft pick, allow me to borrow a line from Herm Edwards: “You play to win the game.” Professional athletes have spent their entire lives playing as hard as they can every time they step onto the playing surface and to give it everything they’ve got in order to win. To tell them to do otherwise is just completely foreign.
Play hard and try to win every game in order to get the best seed that you can. And then let the chips fall where they may. Take whichever team you’re matched against and beat them. It doesn’t matter who they are. When you get into the “Eh, I wouldn’t want to play against that team,” you’re putting yourself in a bad mental state.
We’ll see what happens, but wouldn’t it be hilarious to see some fans celebrate a first round matchup against the Panthers only to lose the series? Hey, you got what you asked for.