NHL Playoffs 2014 (Round 1) Countdown and Predictions
The last couple years, we’ve made predictions for all the playoff rounds based on the branding of that team, and since it’s that awesome time of the year where the playoffs have arrived and fans of the 16 remaining teams actually want to go through 2 months of stress and nail-biting rather than not, we’ll do it again. Last year, HbD went 10-for-15 in predictions (and we’ll just forget about the 5-for-15 back in 2012). 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.
But on top of that, the match-ups are going to be ranked according to which will be the best to watch from an aesthetic standpoint. Some jerseys work better together than others, and you’ll see why.
Let’s hope that the Sharks leave their black thirds in their closets, as that would just make this match-up even more boring to watch from an aesthetic standpoint. Monochromatically black Kings jerseys versus mostly white Sharks jerseys in LA. And then monochromatically white Kings versus teal Sharks jerseys in San Jose, assuming the don’t wear their black third jerseys. Yawn. It’ll be like watching black-and-white television with just the players faces coloured in, like those awful and cheesy photographs that were so big a decade ago. There’s something wrong when teal is most exciting colour out there. Hockey-wise, though, this could be the best match-up of the first round.
For the Sharks, they’ve never strayed from their original concept since inception, 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. Their original logo is better than the newly designed one (ranked at #25), but at least they’ve moderately improved their jerseys this season, making it a little more minimal and clean, because the previous one was 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.
The Kings, meanwhile, have been retooling their 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. 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. And the Sharks’ logo is still better.
Sharks in 7.
There’s a little more colour in this match-up than in the previous Sharks-Kings one, but not much. For Columbus, their current jerseys are pretty well-designed, but the navy blue is a bit too dark (if you’re using a dark blue that’s going to look like black, then what’s the point?). They have splashes of red in there, including the red shorts, which will be a welcome addition, especially playing Pittsburgh who (like the Kings) have a fairly monochromatic colour scheme to their jerseys. But I have been and always will be a fan of their Vegas gold. It’s classy and unique. But combined, this isn’t that interesting of a match-up to watch, still leaning towards the monochromatic too much.
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). They’ve also been very innovative (but maddeningly inconsistent) in their jersey designs.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have a relatively short history, but have been fairly consistent with the design of their jerseys since their inception, with the only exception being their third jerseys, which are one of the best third jerseys in the league. Their logo though is just okay, getting ranked 23rd in the league. They haven’t had enough history to screw anything up too badly, but this is only their second trip to the playoffs in their history. A lack of success will kill a brand more than anything and just based on that, they’re in a tough match-up against almost any other team in the league.
Penguins in 6.
The Stars are definitely not the ones holding this match-up down, with their fantastic new jerseys showcasing a brand new (and unique for the league) shade of green that looks beautiful on the ice. But about that logo…. The Ducks, however, are pulling things apart visually, with boring black and white jerseys with hints of beige. Yeehaw. The orange trim on these jerseys are so minimal, it’s not even worth mentioning. If, however, they wear their other black jerseys, that could spice things up a bit.
Well, the Ducks were ranked 30th overall, dead last, for their logo. It’s 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 which is getting more usage and is officially becoming their official primary logo. Great, so ditch the old one finally! 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 it’s still lacking.
That being said, Dallas hasn’t had the best branding in their history either. From the uterus jerseys, to the ill-conceived black and white jerseys from the seasons before this one without a logo on it, to the cheesy star-piped jerseys, to cheating to win the Cup (alright, just kidding about that one), Dallas has made just as many, if not more, missteps. Plus, their previous logo was ranked 27th in the league, and the new one isn’t that much better. But damn, at least they’re moving in the right direction with those new jerseys.
This one’s close, but it has to go to the team with the better current logos, jerseys and without a history of corporate schlepping.
Stars in 7.
This is the stage in the ranking when things get really good, really fast. It feels wrong to rank this Original Six match-up so low on the list, as they both have the best logos in the league and beautiful jerseys. But the dominant black of the Bruins jerseys hurt this match-up’s case, making it just slightly more monochromatic and less visually appealing than the remaining match-ups. Seriously, it’s close though. This one will still be a pleasure to watch, both aesthetically and for the actual hockey that will be played.
This is the closest prediction of the first round, easily. 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 everything Boston 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 their second 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. And you know how Boston had the second best logo in the league? Guess who has the best in the league? In the end, the slight missteps the Bruins made (that the Red Wings have never done), costs them.
Detroit in 7 (in overtime).
This is an interesting match-up, with a new era of colours in the league competing: burgundy and royal blue versus hunter green and red. It’s not your classic red versus blue that generally dominates the league, but there definitely won’t be a shortage of colour on the ice with either of these teams either. This could be especially true depending on what home jerseys the Wild decide to wear, whether it’s the ones pictured here, or their red ones. Either way, it will be fun to watch these two teams play, even if their colours will probably clash a bit.
Colorado has been incredibly consistent with their branding since moving from Quebec City in the mid-’90s, only changing their jerseys when the Reebok Edge jerseys were introduced in 2007 and introducing a third jersey in 2009 that they still wear. The third jerseys is a bit of a rip-off of the Rangers’ jersey design, but they do have the blue-burgundy colour combination that is theirs alone. Oh yeah, and they’ve got a brand that has seen some pretty great success and had some excellent players on their team. Success always helps a brand. Their only misstep? The previous third jerseys weren’t that great. Oh yeah, and their 29th-ranked logo. Even success hasn’t saved that thing.
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 they’re moving away from being branding as the mind-numbingly boring team from the Lemaire years. And they have awesome new road jerseys, the best thing to come out of hockey design in 2013.
Minnesota in 6.
A classic blue versus red matchup, with two of the more colourful and interesting jerseys taking over the ice. The Blackhawks have one of the nicest jerseys to have ever existed in the league with their home reds, and their road whites aren’t too shabby either. The Blues are currently wearing the best jerseys they’ve ever worn and with a perfect yellow trim on their design, it becomes a celebration of primary colours on the ice. The visuals will be just as good as the actual hockey with this match-up.
St. Louis’ logo is one of the best in the game, ranked at #4, but 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 the best in the league. 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.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ logo ranks at #7 in the league, 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.
Chicago in 5.
Blue and orange are complimentary colours, but like any complimentary colours what are meant to only accent each other (think LA Lakers or the Wild), if you have them in amounts that are too equal to each other, they begin to clash. With this match-up, that’s a great thing. The orange Flyers against the Blueshirts. A literal visual clash – on top of being a hockey clash – of two of the better (and more colourful) sets of jerseys in the game today.
The Rangers were ranked as having the 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 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. Although the Rangers haven’t enjoyed the legacy and history of on-ice success that most of the Original Six teams have had, the Blueshirts are not a brand to be messed with.
The Flyers, in the meantime, have a top-3 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 as for Winter Classics, they’ve had one fantastic (which was the basis for their current jerseys) and one lacklustre jersey. Like the Rangers, 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 afraid to play around.
Rangers in 7.
It’s tough to compete with a classic red versus blue match-up in the NHL. Some of the most iconic and stories rivalries in hockey have been this way: Habs vs Leafs, Leafs vs Red Wings, Blackhawks vs Rangers, Habs vs Nordiques, etc. It’s got a long history of entertaining hockey and visually, nothing else compares. Tampa Bay recently joined the conversation with their conversion from black jerseys to blue ones, and a refinement of their branding overall, from a couple seasons ago. It’s going to be beautiful to watch these two teams battle.
But seriously, this one isn’t even close. Tampa Bay may have righted their branding ship recently, but it’s still not completely steady, particularly the overly-simplified and corporate looking 22nd-ranked logo in the league. And those “Bolts” jerseys that they continue to wear from time to time is inexcusable considering the superiority of their regular jerseys. And if we start diving back too far into the past, hoo boy. And their past logos have offered some pretty horrendous and illegible typography. Sure, they’ve had some success with a Stanley Cup back in 2004, but have you seen who they’re playing?
This is a match-up for the Lightning against the best logo for a Canadian team in the NHL (and 5th overall). It’s a match-up against the most iconic hockey sweater in existence that has endured for almost 100 years now. The “bleu, blanc et rouge” is on par with the Yankee pinstripes and has been celebrated in book and film. It is the one jersey/logo/brand that will never change because of how iconic it has become. And it plays in the birthplace of hockey. Oh, and there’s 24 banners hanging in the rafters in Montreal that attest to a small amount of success as well.
Montreal in 4.
Check back for Round 2 in a couple weeks!