Quit Bagging the NHL Playoffs

I'm getting excited about this Phoenix Coyotes team. I went to opening night and witnessed a team that, for the first time in years, could skate, pass and hit like a top flight NHL team.

If their two opening week wins over Columbus and Anaheim are any indication of what we're going to see through the other 80 games this season, then the Desert Dogs really do have a legit chance of making a run at the postseason. Going into the season, I believed that the Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks were going to be the two teams that would be scrapping for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

However, once again, the cynics and critics are out in force when it comes to the NHL and the amount of teams it lets into the postseason. I've heard it too many times in my 18 years of watching, playing and covering hockey: "How can you miss the playoffs in the NHL...more than half the teams make it!"

This is a load of crap.

The last I checked, people will make that remark and then go on to claim, this time correctly, that the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the most grueling and gutty postseason tournament in professional sports. And the last I checked, and I'm not trying to hate on other sports here, but the NBA also throws the top eight in each conference into the playoffs as well.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic wrote a really good column after the 'Yotes 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets about his optimism about the direction of this team, but then took what I perceived to be the jab:

"The struggles of the Coyotes are well documented. Their forays into the free-agent market have been futile fishing expeditions. They haven't made the playoffs since 2002, in a league where 16 of 30 teams qualify for the postseason."

Take a look at the 2007-08 seasons in the NBA and NHL. In the NBA, Toronto, Philadelphia and Atlanta all made the playoffs with .500 or below records, with the Hawks having the worst record amongst playoff qualifiers in the history of the NBA. Washington, just above Toronto at 41-41, was in 5th with a record only two games over .500.

In the NHL last season, Carolina, Buffalo, Florida, Toronto, Edmonton, Chicago, Vancouver and Phoenix all missed the playoffs with records over .500. Most of those teams (save Toronto) were in a legit race for the final spots going into the latter half of March.

So before you go and devalue a team in the NHL because they don't make the playoffs in a "league where 16 of 30 teams qualify," take a look at the precedent set last season and how competitive the league has become.

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