Today marks the end of the regular season and the beginning of the greatest, most arduous, most competitive event in sports: The Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's that time of year when accepted notions of who is the better teams in the league during the regular season gets flipped upside down, coaching systems are questioned, slumping superstars are benched, huge hits will be laid, players will be suspended. and life-altering goals scored.
There are few things that can evoke such emotions in the extremes as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Victories can become cherished generational memories, defeats can leave you feeling like someone just scraped out your insides with a rusted metal spatula.
That being said, what makes a winner? One popular theory is that it takes three essential players: a true top-line center, a top 10 defenseman, and a dominant goaltender.
Let's look at the past five years and see if this theory works:
- 2015: Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford
- 2014: Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick
- 2013: Chicago Blackhawks: Johnathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford
- 2012: Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick
- 2011: Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas (won the Conn Smythe)
There are some exceptions, of course, if you go further back. In 2010, the Blackhawks won a cup with Antti Niemi. In 2009, the Penguins won a cup without a truly elite defenseman (Letang wasn't there yet). In 2008, the Red Wings won with a rotation of Chris Osgood, and (an old) Dominik Hasek.
If this theory holds true, though, what teams fit this criteria?
- Washington Capitals: John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, (and one could argue Evgeny Kuznetzov is already on his level) and Brayden Holtby
- Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, and Marc-Andre Fleury
- Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, and Ben Bishop
- Chicago Blackhawks: Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford
- Nashville Predators: Shea Weber (and you could argue Josi is better), Ryan Johansen, and Pekka Rinne
And those who fall short in one of those three areas:
- NY Rangers: They have Henrik Lundqvist, their D-core is good overall, but they lack a truly dominant defenseman. You can argue either way about Brassard.
- Florida Panthers: They have Luongo, but is past his prime? Aaron Ekblad will be an elite defenseman one day, but it's a little to early to call him that now. They are young at center. Whether or not their youth core can find another gear is the real question here.
- Detroit Red Wings: Goaltending has been question mark at times this year. Lidstrom has been gone for awhile, and Kronwall is aging. I wouldn't underestimate Datsyuk on a farewell tour, though. I will sad to see him go.
- New York Islanders: Taveres is a top-5 center in the league, and underrated. Defense isn't bad, but lacks an all-star caliber guy. Goaltending is the real concern here, as they will start off playing Thomas Greiss.
- Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has been a revelation and a true joy to watch, but also a rookie. Goaltending is usual concern for the Flyers. Claude Giroux is the whole package.
- Dallas Stars: Their center depth and talent is perhaps unparalleled in the league. Their D is improved, but the goaltending is still a weakness.
- St. Louis Blues: They have a great top D pairing with Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo. Their goaltending can be awe-inspiring when it's on, but the team lacks a true #1 center. Lehtera isn't at that level, and Stastny hasn't quite been as advertised when he was signed as a free agent.
- Anaheim Ducks: They have good center depth, but their goaltenders are unproven, and the D core lacks a world-beating talent.
- San Jose Sharks: Center depth is strong, as Joe Thornton looks ageless this year. Brent Burns has had a Norris-caliber season. Goaltending the real question. Martin Jones/James Reimer have been really good at times, but both are unproven.
- Minnesota Wild: Ryan Suter can shut a team down, but Dubnyk looks like more of an aberration than a revelation. Mikko Koivu as a 1C doesn't inspire the greatest confidence.
According to the theory, the five teams listed above have a great opportunity to make a deep playoff run, and will be my top-5 favorites to take the cup this year. The others have some areas that could be a concern, and in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, one weakness can unravel it all.
So what do you think, does the 1C, 1D, 1G theory hold water? Does the pattern of the last five Stanley Cup Champions prove it, or is this just speculation based on a small sample size?
Do you agree with my assessments, or am I way off? Let us know in the comments!
Arizona Cardinals NFL/Hockey Concept - Jay S.
Positives: Wouldn't have picked the Arizona Cardinals' logo to look good on a chest stripe, but it works here. The Arizona flag is used really well here. Using the Coyotes font makes sense. Execution is really good. Branding is accurate.
Negatives: The contrasting hem and cuff stitching doesn't really add anything to the concept. I'm not a fan of a yoke paired with with hem/chest striping. It's not bad though. I don't see much of anything reminiscent of the Cardinal's branding other than the logos.
Overall: The look itself is solid, but it context, I would like to see more references to the Cardinals' brand aesthetic. (8.25/10)
Atlanta Falcons NFL/Hockey Concept - Jay S.
Positives: Again, the Jay's execution is very good. No complaints there.
Negatives: Again, the concept fails to translate the Falcons' to this concept. I'd use a different font, especially since this font was used on the Arizona concept. Striping on the arms just follows the stitching lines, which is sometimes referred to in a derogatory way as "fill tool striping." The hem striping helps create some interest, but overall, there's not much to write home about here.
Overall: A clean concept, but it needs to relate more to the Falcons' branding, and have a bit more drama. (7.5/10)
Winnipeg Jets Logo Concept - BPoe96
Positives: It's a relatively small change over the Jets' current wordmark, but it's a vast improvement. Putting a jet with the logo makes a lot more sense than a red maple leaf. The Jet gives the wordmark a greater sense of action and motion as well, a huge plus for a sports franchise. The red/blue scheme bridges a connection with the past iteration of the franchise as well. The jersey concept shows the versatility of the logo as well, not looking out of place in three different locations, and in various versions (red, blue, white, with jet, without jet, with outline, without outline).
Negatives: There are a lot of red/white/blue teams in the league. The current team uses silver and two shades of blue, which helps separate their branding a little more. Without that, the Jets' branding is quite as unique. Plus silver/gray makes sense for a team named for something that is typically that color.
Overall: This is, in my opinion, an improvement over what the Jets' use. Opinions could differ depending on where your views towards the Jets' current color scheme. (8.75/10)
Positives: The logo Bpoe designed works for a primary mark. The jersey design is very clean. Bpoe isn't scared to use a lot of white on a dark jersey, which you see sometimes from designers who are uncomfortable with negative space. The jet on the pants stripe is a clever idea. Combined with the stripe, it brings a mental image of a jet taking off of an aircraft carrier. The arm striping looks great. Execution and presentation are flawless.
Negatives: I'm not a fan of the hem striping. I think that pairing the double arm stripes with a single, wider stripe on the hem would look better, and be less reminiscent of the Blackhawks. Ont the dark jersey it doesn't look bad, but the on the white jersey, the red-against-blue striping is not as visually appealing.
Overall: Like Scheifele's game these past few months, there's a lot of potential here. A few minor changes could make this an outstanding set. (8.75/10)
Vancouver Canucks Alternate Jersey Concept - Tyler M.
Positives: Execution is very good, and the presentation has an interesting gradient. Using the stick-in-rink logo as a primary was a good choice. Colors are balanced pretty well.
Negatives: When using a Reebok jersey template, it's best to pair it with Reebok equipment as well. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find many Canucks fans who would want this color scheme to return. It doesn't pop on the ice like the blue/green jerseys, and is not as unique. However, if you're going to use it, go the full distance. I'd use more silver, putting it between the hem/arm stripes.
Overall: It's a well-executed design. However, I think the color scheme is something that belongs in the time period it was used in. Brighter colors are the trend now, and bucking that trend would take the Canucks down a peg in terms of aesthetic brand recognition. (7.5/10)
Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL Concept - TG
Positives: The striping follows the same angle as the plane on the logo. That's the kind of attention to detail gets me every time. It's like filling up a gas station and the pump stops exactly at an even dollar amount. The hurricane flag-pattern striping looks great. It's a design cue the world has been missing since the Carolina Hurricanes decided they wanted to be the design equivalent of a Coldplay single. Extra points for using Drayton Thunder Chief, the best name in sports. Colors are balanced perfectly. Fonts are clean and easily legible, even from a distance. Execution is excellent.
Negatives: The only major concern I would have comes from a marketing aspect: Does "Hurricanes" refer to the Hawker Hurricane, a British WWII fighter plane, or the natural weather phenomenon? This jersey goes for both. It looks great, but if I was a marketing guy, I would probably advise the team to pick one type of Hurricane and stick with that.
Overall: This a really strong set for Lethbridge. There could be a marketing concern with defining what kind of Hurricane the team wants to emphasize, but beyond that, I have no complaints at all. (9/10) COTW Nomination from me!
Boston Pride NWHL Concept - Lucas D.
Positives: The Boston Pride's current jerseys are pretty solid. The striping of their current set looks great, and doesn't come off as overly derivative of the Bruins, though the city connection is purposeful (and rightfully so). That being said, this offering from Lucas is solid as well. Colors are balanced well, the striping looks good, and the name/numbers are easily readable. Execution is good.
Negatives: Because NWHL players typically have longer hair, I would put the name under the number in this instance, so that the name isn't potentially blocked by the player's hair. The Pride uses a shoulder patch on their jerseys, and I think that using one here would draw a little more interest, as the shoulders/arms are a little bare.
Overall: This could work as an alternate jersey. I think a few minor changes could bring more drama and practicality to the jersey, making it stronger. (8/10)
That's all for today! Be sure to check out Ryan's content-packed post from yesterday!
Here are your voting reminders:
COTW-March vote (ends Friday @ 11:59pmn Eastern)
COTW Apr 3-9 vote (ends Friday @ 11:59pm Eastern)