NHL Playoffs 2013 Predictions (Round 1) HbD-Style
I did this last year (and miserably went 5 for 15), and since it’s that awesome time of the year where the playoffs have arrived and fans of the 16 remaining teams actually wish to go through 2 months of stress and nail-biting rather than just 2 weeks, I’m taking a look at the playoff matchups from a branding/design perspective. Some of the content is regurgitated from last year, but there’s some new stuff too for the new teams that weren’t invited to the dance last year.
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. Short but sweet, live a certain strawberry cake.
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins v (8) New York Islanders
There was 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. 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 Islanders have also had a bit of spotty logo and branding history. Their current logo is still easily the best they’ve had in their history, with the only other majorly redesigned logo featuring the Highliner fisherman. The weak competition means that this logo is still only ranked 20th in the BTLNHL Countdown. But their overall design and branding has improved since they went back to the lighter blue of their original logo and jerseys since they remind people that this was once an excellent and dynastic team in the ’80s. But can we ever forgive these disastrous jerseys? Or these? And their current third jerseys aren’t much better.
Okay, so this matchup is actually pretty close because of the continuous miscues these teams have taken in their design. But in the end, the better logo emerges victorious.
Pittsburgh in 6.
(2) Montreal Canadiens v (7) Ottawa Senators
Haha! This one isn’t even close. This is a match-up between the best logo for a Canadian team in the NHL against the worst logo for a Canadian team. It the most iconic hockey sweater in existence that has endured for almost 100 years now against a team that has had a wide variety of awful third jerseys. The “bleu, blanc et rouge” is on par with the Yankee pinstripes and has been celebrated in book and film.
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 Habs.
Montreal in 4.
(3) Washington Capitals v (6) New York Rangers
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.
Meanwhile, the Rangers were ranked 12th best logo in the league. The Rangers have a history of a solid logo concept since the 1920s and nobody in the league save the Canadiens (see above) 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 jersey for the 2012 Winter Classic more than compensates, and it’s better than the Caps effort. Although the Rangers haven’t enjoyed the most on-ice success of the Original Six teams, the Blueshirts still have an edge over the Caps.
New York in 5.
(4) Boston v (5) Toronto
This is the most closest contest matchup of the Eastern Conference. Two Original Six teams with a long history of excellent jerseys, logos and branding.
The Bruins were ranked with the 2nd-best logo in the BTLNHL Coundown. 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 Leafs have as much history as the Bruins, if not more. Their logo is ranked a respectable 8th in the BTLNHL Countdown and has remained relatively unaltered in its concept since 1917. Their jerseys have barely changed as well in the last 90+ years, and their jerseys have almost always been excellent in their simplicity. They own the blue and white in ways that Tampa Bay could only dream of and their jersey is almost up there with the Habs and Rangers in terms of being an iconic symbol of hockey. And their jersey for the upcoming Winter Classic is excellent as well. Overall, there’s been very few miscues for the franchise in terms of their branding…aside from the product on the ice, going 9 years without a playoff game of course. And 45 years without a Cup appearance, let alone a Cup.
It’s an extremely tough matchup and could go either way. The thing that I like about the Bruins brand though is that they bring their branding to the ice. They’re big, they’re mean and they’re aggressive, just like their logo and jerseys.
Boston in 7. In quadruple OT.
(1) Chicago v (8) Minnesota
The Blackhawks’ logo ranks at #7 in the BTLNHL Countdown, which is very decent, 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. Actually, scratch that last part. Vince Vaughn kind of sucks now. 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, from a branding perspective, they’re a beast.
As for Minnesota, they have what’s the best logo out of all the expansion teams and logo redesigns that emerged during the ’90s, but that’s not setting the bar very high and only gets you ranked at #16. But, they have maintained a very consistent brand, with no logo changes and very minimal jersey changes since their inception, as well as introducing some pretty sweet third jerseys that they’re still using. I’m not crazy about the Christmas-themed jerseys (Clutterbuck is actually singing the “Do you hear what I hear?” holiday carol here), and from watching the Wild over the Lemaire years, I know that their brand of hockey is tainted as not being very excited and, to be honest, pretty mind-numbing. Granted, they’re starting to change that a bit now, but brand perceptions always take time to change.
Chicago in 6.
(2) Anaheim v (7) Detroit
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, and a better version for the upcoming Winter Classic. 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. Oh, and did I mention that their logo is the absolute best in the league? And guess who’s logo was last in the league?
That’s right, the Ducks were ranked 30th overall. Their logo is awful. The primary reason is that it doesn’t fit on the jersey very well because of how horizontal it is. They’re using their third jersey more and more which features just the webbed-foot D, which makes a lot more sense and will hopefully become their main logo before long. But, they also have an inexcusable past, from corporate schlepping for a bad Disney franchise and what could be the most horrendous professional hockey jersey to be worn during a game. Their brand’s improving, but this one’s not even close.
Detroit in 4.
(3) Vancouver v (6) San Jose
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 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. Oh, and that Millionaires jersey the rolled out a couple months ago? So much awesome. But yes, the 40 years prior were a mess.
The Sharks, on the other hand, 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 (ranked at #25), 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. This is actually a pretty close match-up, but the better current logo takes it.
Canucks in 7.
(4) St Louis v (5) Los Angeles
St. Louis’ logo is one of the best in the game, ranked at #4, while Los Angeles has one of the worse – ranked at #28 – so on paper (or, on screen I suppose), this looks at first like a mis-match. But it’s a little bit 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 they almost wore if not for Mike Keenan (thankfully) never allowing them to wear is absolutely unforgivable. That cost them a game right there.
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 (not as bad as that St. Louis one though). 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.
St Louis in 6.