Warning: this was written on April 1st, so please approach with caution!
This has to be a joke.
I mean, seriously: the Buffalo Sabres have lost four games in a row. They have a losing record. They have not won more than three games in a row yet this season. They play like a team that is mildly interested in the sport of hockey. They make mistakes my seven year-old son’s coaches scream at his mite hockey team for making. They have more AHL players than, well, some AHL teams.
And they woke up today only three points out of the playoffs?
Wait – this is for real?
Yes, fans of the Buffalo Sabres: your team is unbelievably within a three-game winning streak of overtaking the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot. You don’t believe, me I know, so here: take a look!
It’s mind-boggling, given the way the Sabres have been playing as of late, that they are even mathematically alive. Some advocates of the NHL will tell you that this is parity at work; that the reason so many teams are still fighting for playoff spots is that, unlike some other pro sports leagues, the NHL is not a league made up of a few elite teams, a cluster of okay teams, and a handful of godawful teams that barely qualify as “professional” teams; that the NHL is the model of what all sports leagues should look like, since it’s made up of evenly-talented teams, any of whom could win on any given night.
I guess that is one way to view this; I, on the other hand, look at standing like this and say, “Where’s the competitive fire? Doesn’t anyone want to win in this sport?” Having thirty teams in the NHL has managed to spread the talent out to the point that a team like Winnipeg, who sports a -17 goal differential this season, is first in its division and third in the Eastern Conference standings. It’s allowed Buffalo, a team that is quite godawful, to hang around and potentially steal a playoff spot from a team. For the love of Wayne Gretzky, even Florida could still make the playoffs! (Sure, it would require that they go undefeated from here on out, but . . . still!)
Can you imagine what the NHL will look like if it actually goes ahead and expands to 32 teams? Woof.
Perhaps the NHL should adopt MLB’s approach to qualifying for the playoffs: have something like 40 teams play an insane amount of regular season games, and then let, like, four teams into the playoffs. Is it more than four? I don’t know – because who actually watches baseball? But that’s the way you build real excitement into a professional sport season!
At any rate, that’s your look at the Eastern Conference standings today!