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Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg v Nashville Is The Best Argument The NHL Has For Keeping The Current Playoff Format

In a recent player poll ran by The Athletic, 60% of players who responded suggested that they would like a change to the current NHL playoff format. Some even going as far as to suggest that they should go back to the top eight conference seeding format that was used back in the mid 1990’s up until the 2013-14 season.

While you can argue the merits of one type of format against another, the one thing you can’t debate is that the current format is fantastic for creating true rivalries and there is no better example right now in the NHL than Jets vs Predators.

It helps that over the last two seasons the Jets and Predators have been two of the very best clubs the league has to offer. It also helps that both teams have passionate, loud fan bases. The fact both teams like to play a physical game and have players that can bring it is just more gasoline to the fire.

But the saying “familiarity breeds contempt” rings true here and playoff series between clubs doubles down on that. The Jets and Predators already had one classic showdown last season and all indications are they’ll have another one in a little over a month and a half from now (of course it looks like St. Louis may have something to say about that as well) which only adds to the anticipation of these matchups.

Games are typically close and for the most part seen a fair share of scoring – eight of the last 12 games played by these teams now have had at least one of the two sides score five goals in a game.

It’s only been a handful of seasons, but it really does feel like division rivalries matter in the NHL now and it should stay that way. Unlike when being in a conference with 12 other teams, the chances you’re in a battle for playoff positioning let alone a playoff series is greater when limited to just the same six other clubs every season. This season the Jets and Predators are in a battle for first in the division. Five seasons from now both teams could be fighting to claim a wild card spot, but the point is it’ll still be the same familiar foe.

Jets rivalries with other teams may lack a little bit, but give that time. It wasn’t that long again that fans looked forward to a potential St. Louis / Winnipeg series knowing full well what kind of intense physical battle it would be.  The rivalry with Minnesota seems to be a slow boil and with the Wild’s chances this season fading, the burner might be outright off, but thankfully that one has the convenience of location to also help spark it at a moment’s notice.

Imagine a Blackhawks / Jets playoff series and how crazy that could get between the two fan bases.

We as hockey fans haven’t seen the full reality of just how great this current playoff format is because it’s only into it’s sixth year. We’re starting to see the signs with other divisions and teams, but right now it is at it’s strongest between Nashville and Winnipeg and I don’t know if it would be that way if the NHL was still in it’s conference playoff format.