Monday, April 27, 2009

Re-Seeding: A Really Stupid Idea

I was discussing the NHL playoffs with a friend, and he mentioned that the teams in the Eastern Conference who had won their series already would have to wait until Tuesday night to find out who they'll play in the second round. I was confused, and asked for clarification: "What are you talking about? The Bruins were the #1 seed, the Penguins the #4 seed. They'll play each other."

"No," he says. "If the Rangers beat the Caps, they'll play the Bruins. Otherwise, the Bruins will play the winner of the other game." I was astonished. The NHL re-seeds teams after the first round. The NFL does the same thing and I don't like it. I enjoy being able to fill in a bracket when talking about playoff predictions. I like being able to map out the "road to the Super Bowl" for different teams, and with re-seeding, you can't really do that until after the first round games have been played.

What are the advantages of re-seeding? No, seriously, I'm asking. What does it do? It ensures that the highest-seeded team remaining will play the lowest-seeded team remaining in the second round. So, for example, if Anaheim completes the upset against #1 seeded San Jose, their reward will be to head to Detroit and face off against the third best team in hockey this season. I think that's just dumb. By beating San Jose, the Ducks should earn the opportunity to play against the 4/5 winner, not the opportunity to get thrown up against the boards by the Red Wings.

And that's not even the best argument against re-seeding your playoff teams. Think about the best postseason in sports: the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament. You may know it as March Madness, and it's one of the most widespread and exciting playoff in the world. Everyone fills out a bracket (or twelve), everyone checks scores all day long at work, everyone goes out to bars and restaurants to watch some of the games, everyone has something to talk about to everyone else between Selection Sunday and the national championship on Monday, three weeks later. It's as important as the Super Bowl when it comes to market penetration into people's everyday lives.

Now, add in a re-seeding mechanism, where #1 seeds would play the lowest seed remaining in their bracket. What happens? You lose the brackets. You lose the opportunity to project matchups through the middle rounds, because you don't know who will be playing who. By making that change, you'd be essentially crippling the marketing machine that is Bracketology. There is, of course, no way it would ever happen, but for some reason, the NHL and NFL have both decided it's a good idea. I just don't see how you gain anything from it, and you take away a little of the sports talk radio discussion you could have on it, by eliminating the possibility of a "full playoff preview show," where the commentators predict the playoffs all the way through.

Hmm...sports talk radio discussion...we'll have to get into that again sometime.


Secret Admirer(Crosby FanBoy) said...

I think its there to reward the teams for the regular season. If you kick ass the whole regular season, dont you deserve a little more reward than playing the 8th seed in the first round? Re-seeding unsures you always have the favorable match-up? Unfair for the 8th seed? maybe. But they just snuck into the postseason anyway, has to be some punishment.

GoodPointJoe said...

Despite you being a Crosby Fanboy on a DC area sports blog, thanks for your comment.

I understand what you're suggested as the possible logic behind re-seeding, but if that's the reasoning, why not just give the first and second seeded teams bye weeks? That's a far more sincere reward to the teams that "kick ass the whole regular season" than playing against a team that just upset a higher seed, and it makes both the regular season and the first round of the playoffs more important.

Another issue with the re-seeding logic is that we're assuming that a #5 seed is innately better than a #8 seed. What about the #8 seeded Atlanta Hawks in 2007-2008, who were the only team to take the Celtics 7 games throughout last year's playoffs? Or the #8 seed Warriors who beat the Mavericks the year before? Or all of the wild card teams in the NFL that have played in or won the Super Bowl? The seeding mechanism is as flawed as any other way to determine how good a team is, so why not just follow the bracket?

OnmykneesforCrosby(male) said...

Bye weeks are a good reward. Problem is they mean no revenue. NFL doesnt have to worry about this problem since they make the bulk of thier money from TV.

But for the NHL and NBA, I've read each round of the playoffs means many millions of revenue from the gate and all the stuff that comes with that. Tough "reward" for being good don't you think??

I realize a championship brings much more money than any one round can bring, BUT I'm just offering another possible reason they don't change the current format.

GoodPointJoe said...

I definitely think that money is a determining factor for why they don't integrate bye weeks, just as it's a reason that they have half the league make the playoffs and they expanded the first round from 5 game series to 7 game series. More games = more tickets/food/merchandise.

Wouldn't it have been nice, though, to look at the playoff picture right from the beginning and say, "Hmm, if the Caps win their first two series, and the Pens win their first two series, those two teams will meet in the conference finals..."?

That's much better than saying, "Hmm, if Carolina beats New Jersey and the Bruins lose in the first round, the Caps and Pens can play in the Eastern Conference finals. OR, if all four higher seeds win in the first round." The fact that the Caps could've faced any of the six lower-seeded teams in the second round based on how the other games went is just ridiculous to me. Earn your seed, and play your path. The bracket is what I want.

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