NHL’s new playoff format reminiscent of the days of the Patrick, Smythe, Adams, and Norris divisions

Rangers and Devils brawl during 1991-92 Patrick Division playoffs (NHLI/Getty Images)

It may only be for one year, but this guy is all smiles with the news that the playoffs for this year will be divisional. As a kid growing up and falling in love with the sport, there was something special about watching your team butt heads in an elimination format against bitter divisional rivals.

Breaking down the details of the 2020-21 NHL Season

Here’s a breakdown of some of the key tidbits of last night’s agreement:

  • 56 game schedule
  • Season to begin 1/13*
  • Training camps will begin 12/30 (non-RTP) and 1/3 (RTP)*
  • No expanded roster, remains 23
  • Taxi squad of up to 4-6 players with a mandatory third goalie
  • Top 4 teams in each division will make the playoffs
  • First two rounds of playoffs will be within division
  • Round three will be the first out of division games seeded by points
  • Players can opt-out of play without pay, team can carryover the contract a year

*Dates subject to change

Shades of Old Time Hockey

nhl divisional playoffs
Ed Belfour of the Blackhawks facing Norris foes Minnesota North Star’s and Brian Bellows (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)

This season will be reminiscent of the glory days of divisional battles that date back to the 80’s and 90’s. I vividly recall some of the absolute great rivalries that no longer exist today, or pale in comparison.

The intensity of fierce rivalries like the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Toronto Maple Leafs against the St. Louis Blues. Or the Minnesota North Stars and the Red Wings. I miss the old Norris Division that ended after the 1992-93 season. Heck I miss the Patrick, Smythe and Adams as well.

Of course, some rivalries remain but just don’t feel the same. That’s due to the amount of times teams play each other and the fact that the current playoff format with wild cards may have a team in the Metro possibly not face a single divisional rival for example.

Let me elaborate, the Patrick Division back during the 1989-90 season was comprised of six teams. The NYR, NYI, NJ, PHI, PIT, WSH and through the course of the season they battled each other 7 times. Today, these teams exist in the Metro Division and they only play each other 4 times.

Back then, these teams would crush each other during the regular season to get in the playoffs. Then the war would intensify for two rounds in order to be crowned the “Patrick Division Champions”. Those old banners hanging in some arenas some of you think are pointless, well they really meant something back then.

Back to the glory days

Now for one season, we will get back to those roots. A 56 game schedule in the US1 or East division means 8 hotly contested divisional battles to get into the playoffs. This will be played out in all the newly formed divisions.

No matter what the outcome of those series will be, it will all start again with even more on the line in the playoffs. Whatever rivalries or personal battles between players formed during the season will now have the dialed turned up to 11 come post season.

Be ready young hockey fans. You are in for a treat.

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