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Sunday, October 9, 2016

NHL Highest Paid Players By Year

NHL player salaries have seen fantastic fluctuations over the past two decades owing to aggressive player negotiations, reckless owner spending, and the introduction of the NHL salary cap in 2005.

The chart below shows the highest paid players in the NHL in terms of annual salary since 1989-1990 and the team responsible for payment.

Year       Salary Player
1989-1990   $2,000,000 Lemieux (PIT)
1990-1991 $3,000,000 Gretzky (LAK
1991-1992 $3,000,000 Gretzky (LAK)
1992-1993 $3,500,000 Lindros (PHI)
1993-1994 $3,350,000 Lindros (PHI)
1994-1995 $3,660,000 Gretzky (LAK)
1995-1996 $6,540,000 Gretzky (LAK, STL)
1996-1997 $11,350,000 Lemieux (PIT)
1997-1998 $16,450,000 Sakic (COL)
1998-1999 $14,500,000 Fedorov (DET)
1999-2000 $17,400,000 Jagr (PIT)
2000-2001 $10,000,000 Forsberg (COL), Kariya (ANA)
2001-2002     $11,000,000     Jagr (WAS)
2002-2003 $11,480,000 Jagr (WAS)
2003-2004 $11,000,000 Forsberg (COL), Jagr (WAS)
2005-2006 $8,360,000 Jagr (NYR)
2006-2007 $8,360,000 Jagr (NYR)
2007-2008 $10,000,000 Briere (PHI), Gomez (NYR), Vanek (BUF)
2008-2009 $10,000,000 Heatley (OTT)
2009-2010 $10,000,000 Lecavalier (TBL)
2010-2011 $10,000,000 Lecavalier (TBL), Luongo (VAN)
2011-2012 $12,000,000 B. Richards (NYR)
2012-2013 $14,000,000 Weber (NAS)
2013-2014 $14,000,000 Weber (NAS)
2014-2015 $14,000,000 Weber (NAS)
2015-2016 $14,000,000 Weber (NAS)
2016-2017 $14,000,000 Kopitar (LAK)



Jagr lays claim to the largest salary in a single season banking $17.4m in 2000, with Sakic a close second at $16.45m in 1998. The lowest paid top earner over the past 21 seasons was Lemieux, taking $2m in 1990. 

Six times during this span Jagr led all players in pay (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) with Gretzky (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996) and Weber tied for second place with four such salary titles (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). Only five times since 1990 has a goaltender (Luongo 2011) or a defenseman (Weber 2013-2016) led the league in pay.

In terms of accomplishments, three times during this span the NHL salary king has captured the Art Ross finishing with the most regular season points (Gretzky 1991, Lemieux 1997, Jagr 2000) yet only once has one hoisted the Stanley Cup (Forsberg 2001) in his highest paid year.

As for MVP honors, hockey writers and GMs have never recognized a top earner for regular season (Hart, NorrisVezina) or playoff (Conn Smythe) performance during this period, though the players twice picked Jagr (2000, 2006) as such (Lindsay) during his six season pay day heyday.

Of course, since the salary cap was introduced in 2005, the key figure in terms of a player's cost to a team is his cap hit figure as opposed to his annual salary. A list of the top player salary and cap hit figures by position for the 2016-17 NHL season can be found here.


* See also NHL Highest Player Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also NHL Minimum Wage & Maximum Wage By Year.
* See also Rethinking NHL Player Salary Structure.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

NHL Highest Player Salary & Cap Hit By Position

Since the NHL salary cap was introduced in 2005, clubs have kept a close eye on two key player payroll markers - cap hit and salary. Cap hit corresponds to the dollar amount applied towards team salary cap whereas salary connotes a player's actual take home pay.

The chart below presents 2016-2017 NHL player cap hit and salary figures for the top ten players in each position as published by Cap Friendly.

      2016-2017 NHL Player Cap Hit By Position

Forward  $m      Defense     $m      Goalie       $m
Kane  10.5         Subban Lundqvist 8.5
Toews  10.5         Weber 7.85  Bobrovsky 7.42
Kopitar  10         Byfuglien 7.6  Rinne       7
Ovechkin  9.53        Suter 7.53  Rask         7
Malkin  9.5        Letang 7.25  Price         6.5
Crosby  8.7         Phaneuf 7 Holtby         6.1
Perry  8.62         Doughty Crawford  6
Stamkos  8.5         Chara 6.91  Miller      6
Giroux  8.27         Seabrook 6.87 Schneider         6
Getzlaf  8.25         Giordano 6.75  Bishop        5.95
Voracek  8.25        

       

      2016-2017 NHL Player Salary By Position

Forward  $m      Defense     $m        Goalie  $m
Kopitar  14        Weber 12  Lundqvist 9.5
Kane  13.8        Subban 11  Bobrovsky 8.5
Toews  13.8         Suter 9 Rask     7.5
O'Reilly  11         Seabrook Quick      7
Crosby  10.9         Byfuglien Holtby      7
Perry  10       Phaneuf 7.5 Rinne       7
Ovechkin  10         Yandle 7.5  Price  7
Voracek  10         Doughty 7.45  Luongo    6.71
Malkin  9.5        Letang 7.25 Smith      6.5
Stamkos 9.5        Karlsson 7 Lehtonen 6

        Petry 7 Crawford 6

        Peitrangelo 7 Miller      6

        Boychuk 7 Varlamov 6

       

Schneider    6

The 2005 CBA permitted a player's cap hit and salary figure to diverge dramatically in the same season and over the course of a multi-year contract. Thus, despite Kopitar ($14m) being paid the most this season, it's actually Kane and Toews ($10.5m), who cost the most consuming more of their team's $73m cap limit than any other player.  The 2013 CBA limits this cap-circumvention loophole providing that no multi-year contract can fluctuate more than 35% year-to-year on salary amounts and 50% from the lowest salary year to the highest salary year.  

Another interesting facet of modern player contracts are signing bonus payments (as opposed to performance bonus payments). The genius of structuring player compensation as a bonus is that the earnings are not subject to escrow withholdings and are payable during lockouts.  

When a player retires their cap hit does not typically count against the team's cap limit.  Two notable exceptions to this rule include: (1) all remaining years of any contract signed by players 35 years of age or older continue to count against a team's cap after retirement; and (2) if a player retires and the salary on any remaining years is less than the cap hit of those remaining years, the difference is recouped and charged to the team's cap for those remaining years. A list of all current 35+ contracts may be found here.

As for injuries, teams must still pay a player's salary while injured but the cap hit does not count against the club (LTIR & SOIR).  

A listing of the highest paid players in the NHL since 1990, along with the teams responsible for cutting their checks, can be found here.


* See also NHL Highest Paid Players By Year.
* See also Rethinking NHL Player Salary Structure.
* See also NHL Minimum Wage & Maximum Wage By Year.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

History of NHL Contraction

Since the league's inception in 1917, NHL expansion has welcomed 36 clubs to its hockey family. Of those teams, thirteen have relocated to a new city, eleven have changed their team name while remaining in the same city, and six have folded owing to financial failure. 

The chart below shows NHL contraction by year and team name.

Year       Folded Team Name
1918 Montreal Wanderers
1935 St. Louis Eagles^
1936 Philadelphia Quakers^
1946 Brooklyn Americans^^*
1947 Montreal Maroons
1978 Cleveland Barons**^

* Team was victim of NHL Renaming
^ Team was victim of NHL Relocation

The footnotes above show, chronologically, the renaming and/or relocation of contracted teams prior to their demise.  The number of NHL teams and regular season games played by year may be found here.


The first team to fold was the Montreal Wanderers.  Formed in 1903 prior to joining the NHL in 1917, the Wanderers skated in only four NHL games (winning only one) before their home rink Montreal Arena burned down on January 2, 1918 ending their existence.

17 years passed before another club contracted. Born as the Ottawa Senators in 1883 and joining the NHL in 1917, the cash-strapped Senators relocated to St. Louis in 1934 as the St. Louis Eagles, folding after one season owing to poor divisional alignment and travel costs.


The next year the Philadelphia Quakers collapsed. Relocating after five seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Quakers set a record for the NHL's worst win percentage suspending operations after one season before contracting five years later in 1936.


Skating one season in 1919 as the Quebec Bulldogs, the club relocated as the Hamilton Tigers playing five years before becoming the New York Americans in 1925, which was renamed the Brooklyn Americans in their final season in 1942 before folding in 1946.

Erected in 1924 to satisfy Montreal's anglophone hockey fans after losing the Wanderers in 1918, the Montreal Maroons fell victim to the Great Depression, playing their final game in 1938 and ultimately contracted in 1947 after several unsuccessful attempts to move.

Starting out as the California Seals in 1967, the club was renamed the Oakland Seals then the California Golden Seals before relocating as the Cleveland Barons, the franchise skated for two seasons in Cleveland before merging into the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.

Today's NHL frowns upon contracting and relocating teams. Despite financial difficulties plaguing several franchises over the years, the league elects to keep clubs in their current location whenever possible.

The NHL's recent actions in Phoenix supports this narrative, resuscitating the Coyotes for four years amidst enormous losses before finding new ownership which was subsequently approved by the Glendale counsel, averting almost certain relocation to Seattle or Quebec.

Since the NHL expanded beyond its Original Six 1967, only nine teams have relocated and just one has contracted (Cleveland Barons). Time will tell if contraction strikes again or if the NHL's 30 team structure is sustainable and instead NHL expansion is on the horizon.

* See also History of NHL Expansion.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

History Of NHL Team Renaming

Typically reserved for NHL expansion and NHL relocation, seven cities (Toronto, Detroit, New York, Oakland, Chicago, Anaheim, Phoenix) have assigned eleven new names for their NHL team absent a move, since the league's inaugural season in 1917.

The chart below shows each instance of a renaming absent expansion or relocation, sorted by year, old team name and new team name.

Year       Old Team Name New Team Name
1918 Toronto Blueshirts Toronto Arenas
1919 Toronto Arenas Toronto St. Patricks
1927 Toronto St. Patricks Toronto Maple Leafs
1930 Detroit Cougars Detroit Falcons
1932 Detroit Falcons Detroit Red Wings
1941 New York Americans Brooklyn Americans
1967 California Seals Oakland Seals
1970 Oakland Seals California Golden Seals
1986 Chicago Black Hawks Chicago Blackhawks
2006 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim       Anaheim Ducks
2014 Phoenix Coyotes Arizona Coyotes

The most recent team renaming came in June 2014 as part of a last ditch effort to avoid relocation and keep the Coyotes in Phoenix under new ownership after years of financial distress and league ownership.  

Of the eleven newly named teams, five have won the Stanley Cup under their new namesake (Toronto St. Patricks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks) including one in the inaugural year of their name change (Anaheim Ducks 2007), one relocated (California Golden Seals to Cleveland Barons), and two fell prey to NHL contraction (Brooklyn Americans, Cleveland Barons).

Here's hoping the desert dogs enjoy more success on and off the ice with their new name. They're due some good fortune in the Sonoran.

Monday, September 5, 2016

History of NHL Relocation

Since the league's inaugural season in 1917, the NHL has presided over the relocation of thirteen teams, four prior to the cementing of the Original Six in 1942 and the remaining seven clubs commencing in the mid-1970s.

The chart below shows each instance of the relocation of a NHL team, sorted by year, old team name and new team name.

Year       Old Team Name New Team Name
1920 Quebec Bulldogs Hamilton Tigers
1925 Hamilton Tigers New York Americans*#
1930 Pittsburgh Pirates Philadelphia Quakers#
1934 Ottawa Senators St. Louis Eagles#
1976        California Golden Seals        Cleveland Barons#
1976 Kansas City Scouts Colorado Rockies
1980 Atlanta Flames Calgary Flames
1982 Colorado Rockies New Jersey Devils
1993 Minnesota North Stars Dallas Stars
1995 Quebec Nordiques       Colorado Avalanche
1996 Winnipeg Jets Phoenix Coyotes*
1997 Hartford Whalers       Carolina Hurricanes
2011 Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets

* Team was victim of NHL Renaming
# Team was victim of NHL Contraction


As indicated by the footnotes above, several teams have endured change in the form of renaming and contraction. The number of NHL teams and regular season games played by year may be found here.

Seven active NHL teams are a product of relocation (Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets).  The current record for the most relocations by a single NHL team is two, held jointly by the Quebec Bulldogs (Hamilton Tigers, New York Americans) and Kansas City Scouts (Colorado Rockies, New Jersey Devils). Only twice has a relocated club carried their team name to the new town (Flames, Stars).

The most recent NHL team relocation saw Atlanta lose their second team in 31 years (Flames 1980, Thrashers 2011) and Winnipeg land their second club in 32 years (Jets 1979, Jets 2011). The next change of address in the NHL is scheduled for 2015-2016 NHL season when the New York Islanders move a mere 27 miles west from Uniondale to Brooklyn.

Two years ago the Glendale counsel voted 4-3 to keep the Coyotes for five more years, narrowly averting a relocation of the club to Seattle or Quebec City.  While the NHL prefers expansion over relocation owing to the spectacular fees for owners, the continued financial struggles of several Sun Belt squads may yield more relocation in the years to come.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 NHL Individual Awards Winners

When it comes to the NHL Awards, a handful are earned on statistical achievement while the rest are won through votes cast by various organizations depending on the award. The chart below shows the award winners for the 2016 NHL season.

NHL Award              Winner 
Conn Smythe Trophy                              Sidney Crosby
Art Ross Trophy Patrick Kane
Maurice Richard Trophy Alex Ovechkin
Hart Trophy Patrick Kane
Ted Lindsay Award Patrick Kane
Selke Trophy Anze Kopitar
Norris Trophy Drew Doughty
Vezina Trophy Braden Holtby
Jennings Trophy Frederik Andersen/John Gibson
Calder Trophy Artemi Panarin
Jack Adams Award Barry Trotz
GM of the Year Jim Rutherford
Bill Masterton Trophy                        Jaromir Jagr
Lady Byng Trophy Anze Kopitar
King Clancy Trophy Henrik Sedin
Foundation Award Mark Giordano
Messier Award Shea Weber

2016 NHL First All-Star Team honors went to Holtby (G), Doughty (D), Karlsson (D), Crosby (C), Kane (RW) and Benn (LW). The 2016 NHL Second All-Star Team roster was Bishop (G), Burns (D), Letang (D), Thornton (C), Tarasenko (RW) and Ovechkin (LW).  

The 2016 NHL All-Rookie Team was comprised of newcomers John Gibson (G), Shayne Gostisbehere (D), Colton Parayko (D), Jack Eichel (F), Connor McDavid (F) and Artemi Panarin (F).

* See also 2015 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2014 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2013 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2012 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2011 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2010 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2009 NHL Individual Awards Winners.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines

The time-honored tradition of NHL playoff combatants shaking hands upon the conclusion of a series is among the greatest displays of sportsmanship in professional team sports today. Seconds after the horn sounds at the end of a series, players and coaches from both teams convene at center ice to celebrate each other's efforts.

The videos below capture the final moments of play in each series-ending game to date in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs along with the ensuing traditional team handshake line, sorted by round and series end date.

FIRST ROUND

The Lightning eliminated the Red Wings in Game 5 on April 21, 2016.


The Sharks eliminated the Kings in Game 5 on April 22, 2016.


The Penguins eliminated the Rangers in Game 5 on April 23, 2016.


The Capitals eliminated the Flyers in Game 6 on April 24, 2016.


The Stars eliminated the Wild in Game 6 on April 24, 2016.


The Islanders eliminated the Panthers in Game 6 on April 24, 2016.


The Blues eliminated the Blackhawks in Game 7 on April 25, 2016.


The Predators eliminated the Ducks in Game 7 on April 27, 2016.


SECOND ROUND

The Lightning eliminated the Islanders in Game 5 on May 8, 2016.


The Penguins eliminated the Capitals in Game 6 on May 10, 2016.


The Blues eliminated the Stars in Game 7 on May 11, 2016.


The Sharks eliminated the Predators in Game 7 on May 12, 2016.


THIRD ROUND

The Sharks eliminated the Blues in Game 6 on May 25, 2016.


The Penguins eliminated the Lightning in Game 7 on May 26, 2016.


STANLEY CUP FINAL

The Penguins eliminated the Sharks in Game 6 on June 12, 2016.


In an age of results reigning over respect, it's encouraging to see such sportsmanship in professional sport, albeit with notable exceptions (Milan Lucic 2014), abstention (Martin Brodeur 2008Derek Boogaard 2007, Chris Chelios 2007Darren McCarty 1997, Ed Belfour 1995Billy Smith, Gerry Cheevers) and disdain (Dino Ciccarelli 1996) in recent years.

* See also 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.
* See also 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.
* See also 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.
* See also 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.

Monday, May 30, 2016

NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Losses

Since the Stanley Cup was dedicated to NHL's top team in 1926, only five franchises (Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red WingsMontreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues) have qualified for consecutive Cup Finals and lost each time.  

Nine times the losing streak was limited to two years though twice a three year streak struck (Toronto 1938-1940, St. Louis 1968-1970).  The charts below describe these streaks by team and years, and vice versa.

Team                  Years
Toronto 1935-1936 (2), 1938-1939-1940 (3), 1959-1960 (2),
Detroit 1941-1942 (2), 1948-1949 (2), 1963-1964 (2)
Montreal 1951-1952 (2), 1954-1955 (2)
Boston 1957-1958 (2), 1977-1978 (2)
St. Louis 1968-1969-1970 (3)

Years                  Team
1935-1936 Toronto
1938-1940 Toronto
1941-1942 Detroit
1948-1949 Detroit
1951-1952 Montreal
1954-1955 Montreal
1957-1958 Boston
1959-1960 Toronto
1963-1964 Detroit
1968-1970 St. Louis 
1977-1978 Boston

Last week, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell one game short of returning to the Stanley Cup Final for their second consecutive year.  Had they qualified and lost to their western conference counterpart, they would have become the sixth franchise on this inglorious list.

* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Rematches.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

2016 NHL Draft Lottery Results

Tonight Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presented the NHL Draft lottery results live on CBC, with the top overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, to be held on June 24-25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York, being awarded to the intentionally tanking Toronto Maple Leafs.
The actual lottery was conducted 30 minutes earlier in Sportnet's Hockey Central Studio in Toronto. In this video from 2013, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offers a detailed explanation of the process.
Designed to guard against teams purposely losing regular season games to improve their draft position, the weighted lottery system implemented prior to the 1995 NHL Entry Draft provides weaker teams with a greater chance of a higher pick without any guarantees for poor performance.

Until 2013, only the league's five worst regular season teams were eligible for the top overall pick, allowing teams to advance up to four spots and fall only one spot in the lottery. That changed in 2013 with all non-playoff teams eligible for the top overall pick albeit with their statistical likelihood directly tied to their final regular season standing. Though, a team could still only fall one spot in lottery position.

In 2014, additional changes were implemented for the lottery to reflect the competitive balance of the league, with more balanced odds being introduced in 2015 and separate draws in 2016 for the top three positions (as opposed to just for the top overall pick), allowing the league's worst regular season performer to slip as low as fourth overall (as opposed to just second overall under the prior regime).  

For the first time in five years, the top pick went to the statistical favorite. The win provides Toronto with their first top overall pick since selecting Wendel Clark in the 1985 Draft, snapping the Edmonton Oilers streak of selecting first in four of the past six drafts (Taylor Hall 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2011, Nail Yakupov 2012, Connor McDavid 2015).

Adding to the excitement, the Winnipeg Jets (7.5%) and Columbus Blue Jackets (9.5%) snagged 2nd and 3rd spots, leapfrogging statistical favorites Edmonton and Vancouver. The chart below shows final draft position by team with accompanying odds of selecting first, second or third overall, along with their most likely seeding in the lottery.

Draft Position 1st Pick    2nd Pick    3rd Pick    Likely Pick
1. Toronto  
20.0%
17.5%
15.0%
   4th (47.5%)
2. Winnipeg
7.5%
7.8%
8.1%
   7th (39.3%)
3. Columbus
9.5%
9.7%
9.8%
   6th (33.2%)
4. Edmonton
13.5%
13.1%
12.5%
   4th (35.2%)
5. Vancouver
11.5%
11.4%
11.3%
   5th (37.8%)
6. Calgary
8.5%
8.8%
9.0%
   6th (35.5%)
7. Arizona
6.5%
6.9%
7.2%
   8th (39.1%)
8. Buffalo
6.0%
6.4%
6.8%
   8th (39.2%)
9. Montreal
5.0%
5.4%
5.8%
   9th (51.8%)
10. Colorado
3.5%
3.8%
4.2%
  10th (64%)
11. New Jersey       
3.0%
3.3%
3.6%
   11th (73.6%)
12. Ottawa
2.5%
2.7%
3.0%
   12th (82.3%)
13. Carolina
2.0%
2.2%
2.5%
   13th (90.1%)
14. Boston
1.0%
1.1%
1.3%
   14th (96.6%)

Per HockeyViz math wiz Micah Blake McCurdy, the lowest seven finishers (i.e., 24th to 30th overall) are more likely to fall one spot in the draft than to move up under the current draft lottery mechanism.

Remaining NHL Entry Draft positions are set after the playoffs with the Stanley Cup champion and runner-up picking 30th and 29th, respectively. Conference finalists (28th, 27th) as well as division winners and wildcard teams (26th through 15th) are then ordered among their respective subgroup based on regular season standings, positioning teams with better regular season records to pick later than their peers.

* See also 2017 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2015 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2014 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2013 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2012 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2011 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2010 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2009 NHL Draft Lottery Results.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NHL Playoff Seeding And Re-Seeding Rules

With the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the books, the list of Stanley Cup suitors has officially been halved from sixteen teams to a remaining eight. The next question is who plays who in the next round, and why.

The NHL relies on reseeding to pair opponents beyond the postseason's preliminary round. This process sets top teams in each of the four divisions against wildcard recipients and matches second and third place finishers in their respective division against each other. The survivorwinner of the these two series will play each other in the second round, with winners from each of the four divisional brackets battle in their respective Conference Final, with victors skating in the Stanley Cup Final.

Home ice advantage in each best-of-seven series belongs to the team with the most regular season points. When teams have the same number of regular season points, tiebreaker rules are employed.

The beauty of reseeding is it rewards regular season strength amongst divisional teams. Underdogs never shed their skin, forced to play through higher finishing teams to advance, whereas top dogs always enjoy an extra game at home.

Unfortunately, the current reseeding system disadvantages divisions with strong teams, forcing them to play each other when weaker teams reside elsewhere in the conference. As an example, the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division finished the regular season 1st, 2nd and 4th overall in the NHL. Yet, the 2nd and 4th regular season finishers (Pittsburgh & Columbus) played in the opening round and the 1st and 2nd overall finishers are meeting in the second round (Washington & Pittsburgh). Meanwhile, the Atlantic Division's second round matchup features the 9th and 12th best regular season teams (New York Rangers & Ottawa).

So yes, the regular season does count for something but the current playoff format doesn't necessarily yield the easiest path for top finishers.

* See also NHL Tiebreaker Rules and Playoff Seeding.