NHL Playoffs (Round 1) HbD-Style
Since if that most wonderful time of the year where the playoffs have just begun and fans of 16 of the 30 teams wish for 2 months of being a big ball of stress as their team goes through the ebb and flow that all playoff teams go through, it might be a good time to switch things up a bit and look at the first round match-ups, with a design twist.
We’ll compare the overall branding of each series and see how they match-up. This includes the logos, alternate logos, jerseys, historical logos and jerseys, and everything else that builds a team’s brand. Of course, it won’t go nearly as in-depth as the BTLNHL posts, as it would take me until the Cup Finals 2013 to do all that. Short but sweet, live Augustus Gloop.
(1) New York Rangers v (8) Ottawa Senators
The Sens have their work cut out for them in this one. The Rangers were ranked 12th best logo in the league, Ottawa was 21st. The Rangers have a history of a solid logo concept since the 1920s and nobody in the league can match the uniqueness and iconic nature of the Rangers’ home jerseys that have stood the test of time. Often imitated, never duplicated. Their alternate logo is just okay, but not enough to take away from the brand overall, and their recent jersey for the Winter Classic more than compensates. Although the Rangers haven’t enjoyed the most on-ice success of the Original Six teams, the Blueshirts still has an edge over the Senators.
Ottawa has, what I previously called, a borderline minor-league logo, which is still an improvement over their incredibly flat and oddly shaped original logo, which is also an improvement over the typographic disaster that was the logo created for the expansion team in 1991 but never used. They gain points for introducing their historic “O” logo and jerseys recently, but not enough to even come close to taking down the mighty Rangers.
New York in 4.
(2) Boston Bruins v (7) Washington Capitals
The Bruins haven’t been ranked yet in the BTLNHL Countdown, which means they have one of the top-4 logos in the league. It’s iconic, it’s got history and they have lived up to their brand of being the Big, Bad Bruins almost every season. They know their team, they like their style of play, and everything meshes together beautifully. When teams play the yellow and black, they know what they’re in for. They have their brand, their identity, stamped on everything. Their big misstep is their alternative logos and jerseys over the last 40 years. From the bizarro leopard-bear of the ’70s, the smiling Smokey Bear in the ’90s and ’00s, the overly complex and oddly shaped alternative logo of today, and the “meh”-inducing logo for their Winter Classic jerseys, they’ve kind of stunk up the joint. And the alternative jersey with Smokey on it? Awful.
But, the Caps have never had what could be considered a great logo, and they were ranked #24 in the Countdown. It’s a typographical oddity now, and it was the same back then. The logos in-between weren’t much better. Their current jerseys are the best they’ve ever had, but that bar isn’t necessarily set very high either. Where they got tons of points though, is the Weagle, their alternative logo. This is truly a classy and well-executed design. I hope it becomes more prominent in future seasons. But in this playoff season, it’s not a close match.
Boston in 5.
(3) Florida Panthers v (6) New Jersey Devils
Florida was ranked as having the 26th overall logo, the Devils were 17th, so the Panthers are already playing at a disadvantage. I give Florida kudos for sticking to their logo throughout their relative short history and trying to make it work, but it still feels like a minor league logo. It’s worse when you throw in the “breaking-stick” logo. Their current alternate logo is a slight improvement, but it’s hard to feel strong about a brand that doesn’t have much of a fanbase, has no legacy of success aside from one trip to the Finals over a decade ago and design that feels sub-par in comparison.
The Devils have stayed true to their logo throughout their existence, making only the change from their eternal-Christmas colours to a more fitting black and red. This is good and bad in my opinion, as it’s almost playing it too safe. No alternative logos, no third jerseys, nothing. Solid identity maybe, but also very stoic and not extremely crowd-pleasing, or sales-inducing. Also, they got a bad name for their incredibly boring style of play during the ’90s and early ’00s, but they’ve become more exciting and aside from a couple seasons, have had a fairly consistent quality of on-ice play over the last two decades. They’re still fighting for crowds sometimes, but their brand is solid and, at the same time, uninspiring.
New Jersey in 6.
(4) Pittsburgh v (5) Philadelphia
Just like the real on-ice competition, this is the premier match-up in the East. There’s generally a lot of disagreement about ranking the Penguins logo at #6, but I’m obviously still a huge fan of it. It’s the best logo they’ve had in their history, ahead of the yellow (not gold) penguin of the ’70s – ’90s, the corporate-looking winged penguin of the ’90s, the older penguin within the thick band of text, and the original penguin who looks like he’s going to join Bonhomme at Quebec’s Winter Carnaval. Okay, so maybe this isn’t as close as I originally thought, but the Pens do get points for a fantastic Winter Classic jersey (but also get points taken away for a not-so-fantastic one).
The Flyers, in the meantime, have a top-4 logo and no other team in the league owns the orange like Philly, so they have that uniqueness on their side. Their new (old) jerseys are excellent and also unique with the nameplates on the back. That awful alternate bevel-and-embossed logo from the ’00s is unforgivable though. And like the Penguins, they’ve had one fantastic (which was the basis for their current jerseys) and one lacklustre jersey from their trips to the Winter Classic. Like the Devils, they’ve never strayed too far from what their logo/brand, but they’ve pushed things a bit where necessary. Not always in the right direction, but they’re not as afraid to play around.
Philadelphia in 6.
(1) Vancouver v (8) Los Angeles
Regular readers of the blog know that I’m a big Canucks fan, but I’d be the first to admit that they’ve had a spotty past in terms of logos and jerseys, and regular rebrands every 10 years or so doesn’t speak to having any confidence in your visual identity. They’ve had jerseys that have pretty much been universally reviled. And a putrid home jersey that looked ten times better when they finally switched to white. That being said, the Canucks were also ranked at #10 in the Countdown and the Kings were #28, and Vancouver seems to be more on the right track, going back to their original blue and green colour scheme and adjusting the colours on a good logo to match. Their Johnny Canuck alternate logo is pretty good for an alternative logo, their heritage alternate logo is solid and my gut says this current brand will stick for a while. But yes, the 40 years prior were a mess.
The Kings, meanwhile, have been retooling the logo for years. In 14 years, they’ve had 4 distinctly different logos, and each of the previous three are better than their current one, with a crown too small to make out and letters that look awful on a home plate shape. And they forced the greatest player to play the game to wear one of the worst jerseys ever created in the NHL (and yes, it’s worse than anything the Canucks came up with). But, they’ve kept to their black and white motif (with flashes of a regal purple thrown in now and again, which also makes a connection to their original colours) for over 24 years, a scheme that no one else in the league has toyed with, so it’s all their own. That’s a great bonus for establishing an identity, but overall, it’s a bit of a mess with no solid future ahead, aside from their (lack of) colours.
Vancouver in 6.
(2) St. Louis v (7) San Jose
St. Louis’ logo still hasn’t been ranked, meaning it’s a top-4 finisher, and San Jose was ranked at #25, so on paper (as they say), this looks at first like a mis-match. But it’s closer than you may think. Up until the their current logo and jersey design, the Blues have been kind of a nightmare. The previous logo was too rounded and hokey-looking (that’s hokey, not hockey) with a mishmash of colour similar to the Florida Panthers (blue, yellow and red), an Arial “St.Louis” in the logo that’s pretty much unreadable on a jersey, and then a huge double-outlined “Blues” on their logo from before that (and still with the “St. Louis” on it, making it ever harder to read). But, the concept has been there from the beginning and has been tinkered with but never changed. Also a bonus is that their current third jerseys are among my favourites in the league. I would never make them a primary jersey, as its too busy for that, but it’s really nice to look at and well-designed. But this monstrosity that were manufactured and Mike Keenan (thankfully) never allowed them to wear is absolutely unforgivable. That cost them a game right there.
The Sharks, too, have never strayed from their original concept (albeit in a much shorter timeframe), but as my interview with the designer Terry Smith revealed, they’ve owned the teal in a market and era that hugely embraced it, and for a water-dwelling animal like a shark, the teal makes a bit of sense. I’m a fan of their original logo more than the newly designed one, and I find their new jerseys awful, with the numbers on the front and overly-outlined striping making the whole thing a visual mess. And say what you want about never getting to the Cup, but they’ve been a perennial Western power for a long time now, and that kind of success can build a solid brand, despite it’s negatives. But, in the end, it’s not enough to upset the Blues.
St. Louis in 7
(3) Phoenix v (6) Chicago
This isn’t really a fair fight, as Phoenix doesn’t have the fan base or security to build a definite identity within Phoenix itself, and their constant lack of an audience proves that. Also, if you take away their first seven years of existence, it might be relatively close, as their current logo came in at #9 on the Countdown. But their original logo and jersey is an over-designed mess. I understand and commend their attempt to connect to the Arizonans through the use of local Native motifs, but it was a miss. The new logo toned that down considerably and left a solid and minimal coyote in unique colours that connects the landscape and area to it. That’s absolutely commendable. For alternative logos, their two current ones are great, especially the PHX one. If there was an interested community behind them, and not the constant fear of being moved, it might be a better opponent.
But the Coyotes are going up again the Blackhawks. Their logo ranks at #7, not high above Phoenix, but they also have one of the absolute best jerseys in the league, both home and away. They have history (as the logo hasn’t changed at all since 1964, and the same concept since their inception in 1926), the Madhouse on Madison, a passionate fanbase, overall high-quality design, a good Winter Classic jersey addition and Vince Vaughn on their side. They had a tough go of it through the ’90s and early ’00s, with bad ownership and lack of a on-ice quality product, but overall, they’re a beast.
Chicago in 4.
(4) Nashville v (5) Detroit
Like St. Louis v San Jose, this looks like a mismatch, but again, it’s closer than you might think. I’m not overly crazy about the Predator’s logo, coming in at #18 on the BTLNHL Countdown (although it’s better than their original), and they had some design missteps (primarily their former alternative logos – checkerboard…really? – and third jerseys), but the fact they’ve made a solid go of it in a very non-traditional hockey market, have a solid fan base and develop a true of identity of continually better than the sum of their parts (kudos to Trotz) is completely impressive. Plus, their new jerseys are solid and a good improvement over the original and I’m bullish on their alternate logo. The mustard yellow thing isn’t my bag baby, but they own it, and their fans have latched on. Much like the orange in Philadelphia, and the red in Detroit. Speaking of which…
Don’t worry, on the basis of their seeding, this match-up has upset written all over it. Everything Chicago has on their side, Detroit has as well: history, a passionate fanbase, high-quality overall design, a decent inclusion of a Winter Classic jersey. On top of that, they’ve had 20 years of consistent excellence on the ice and have some of the most respected, classy and feared players in the game. Oh, and octopi. There’s no Vince Vaughn, but his movies suck now anyway. And their logo is among the 4 logos that haven’t made the Countdown yet. It’s not a cake walk, but there’s no stopping the big red machine.
Detroit in 6.