NHL Playoffs 2016 (Round 1) Countdown and Predictions
The last few 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.
In 2015, these HbD predictions went 9-for-15. In 2014, the same 9-for-15. 2013, 10-for-15. 2012, well, 5-for-15. So over 4 post-seasons, we’re 33-for-60. I think we can now definitely say that good branding and design will help you win in the playoffs, right?
So how does it work? 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, general legacy and everything else that builds a team’s brand. 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.
There’s always gonna be a problem when you include the three primary colours in your jerseys. They’re going to be a bit obnoxious and aggressive…and they’re not going to play nice with others. That’s the case here with the Panthers, and their unis look best when paired with something very simple (like Detroit, Tampa or Toronto, for example). The Islanders have great jerseys and are, for the most part, very simple, but adding orange into the red, yellow and (two tones of) blue? It’s just a bit too much.
The Panthers enter this post-season wearing, for the last time, their original logo as they’ll be unveiling a new concept and new jerseys in the off-season for the upcoming 2016-17 season. And while some love their branding, I say good riddance. The logo was never very good, being too complicated and cartoonish. Their colour scheme of blue, red and yellow (all the primary colours) with the beige of the logo, is just too aggressive and obnoxious to work that well (although, their current jerseys do a somewhat admirable job of this). Their third jerseys from a couple years ago are solid though – a minimized colour scheme and simplified logo. While that’s not much of a redemption at this point, you gotta give them points for at least being very consistent since their inception in 1993.
As for the Islanders, their visual branding history has been, well, spotty and inconsistent. The original/current logos and jerseys are great. Everything in-between? An unmitigated disaster. From Captain Fish Sticks to sea-sick numbers to horrible third jerseys to Alexei Yashin, they’ve finally righted the ship again. As mentioned, their current look is solid and has a legacy of success. Sure, their logo is kind of strange and wasn’t ranked that high, but it’s still iconic and represents the last time a team in North American professional sports won four championships in a row. Their Stadium Series (and former third) jerseys were well-designed and feature an iconic alternate logo. And then they dumped them for those awful black Brooklyn pyjamas. They just can’t help themselves, can they? Lucky for them, they’re facing the Panthers, but it’s close.
Islanders in 7 (in OT)
I’ll say it now…I’m a big fan of the Predators jersey set. They’re unconventional, but well-designed and they old the
mustard gold colour in the league right now. I’ll also say this now…I’m not a big fan of the Ducks jersey set. It’s overly complicated, inconsistent, and has way too many stripes. The good thing about them is that they have a decent amount of orange on them (especially the home unis with the orange socks), but just like orange and beige don’t look good together on the Ducks jerseys, orange and mustard don’t either. Except in a nice vinaigrette, then orange and dijon mustard are delicious!
Well, the Ducks were ranked 30th overall, dead last, for their original (non-Mighty) logo, but since then, they’ve improved it simply by changing it only to the webbed-D, which makes a lot more sense in terms of how it looks and fits on a jersey compared to the old logo. But, the new logo still isn’t that great, and 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. Things haven’t improved that much though, with the pylon-esque Stadium Series jersey and their overly-striped and complex home and road jersey. And like I said earlier, orange and beige together? Caman! The whole visual brand could use a re-thinking.
For the Preds, I’m not overly crazy about their logo, coming in at #18, 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 developed a true identity of continually better than the sum of their parts is completely impressive. And as mentioned, their current jerseys are solid and a good improvement over the original and I’m bullish on their alternate logo. And their fans have latched onto the mustard yellow and own it. It’s – in a lot of ways – one of the few success stories in the NHL’s southern expansion.
• More: BTLNHL #18: Nashville Predators
Predators in 6
The Flyers have a fantastic jersey. They are one of the few (if not only) to have been able to pull of an orange jersey in the league, and it works because there’s some much simplicity and the orange is well-balanced with white and/or black. It’s elegant, strong and will visually punch you in the face…and it looks better against blue jerseys than red. I like the Capitals’ jerseys too, with the modern lines and good balance of colours, and their current throwbacks are fun to watch, even though they’re clunky and a bit obnoxious. This is just a case of two good-to-great jerseys not playing as well together as other match-ups. The games in Philly will be the better ones, visually-speaking.
The Caps have never had what could be considered a great logo, and they were ranked #24 in the league. It’s a typographical oddity now, and it was the same with the original it’s based on. The logos in-between weren’t much better (in fact, they were even worse). And while their current jerseys are the best they’ve ever had, that bar isn’t necessarily set very high either. Where they got tons of points though, is with the Weagle, their alternative logo – a classy and well-executed design – and their 2015 Winter Classic jersey. That thing is just stunning, works on so many levels, and worth drooling all over.
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 thankfully, mostly forgotten). And as for Winter Classics, they’ve had one fantastic (which was the basis for their current jerseys) and one average jersey. Like the Rangers, they’ve never strayed too far from their origins, but they’re not afraid to slightly push boundaries while staying within an excellent and consistent visual brand.
Flyers in 5
Finally, the Sharks are leaving their black thirds in their closets! Of course, this decision was based more on voodoo nonsense (#itwas3to0) than design sensibilities, but you take what you can get. The yawners (aesthetically) will be the games in LA, with monochromatically black Kings jerseys versus mostly white Sharks jerseys. 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. The games in San Jose will be better, with the Kings’ deceptively nice road whites (despite having no colour to them) against the full teal of the Sharks. Not too bad. Hockey-wise, though, this is probably the first round match-up I’m most looking forward to.
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 sense. Their original logo is better than the newly designed one, but at least they’ve moderately improved the visual mess of a jersey that preceded these ones, making it a little more minimal and clean. Their Stadium Series jersey was a bit of a league-mandated mess, so you can’t pin it all on them…but whose idea was the choker necklace (#itwas3to0). 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 and fanbase, despite its 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 shaped shield. 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, and more recently their throwback jerseys), 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, and their road whites are pretty nice jerseys, despite the monochromaticism (just made that word up). But, it’s been a messy history, and the Sharks’ logo is still better.
Sharks in 7
For the second year in a row, the Pens and Rangers meet in the first round. Last year, while being a nice match-up, still ranked last. This year, that’s changed a bit, since the Pens are going to be wearing their classic gold jerseys at home throughout their playoff run. The classic gold matches up nicely with the legendary Blueshirt jerseys. It’s a punch of colour (with the primary colours red, blue and yellow all in play) with a good amount of black and white thrown in so it’s not too aggressive. And the Vegas gold (which I personally like) will still be worn during the games in Madison Square Garden, against the even more awesome fully-blue Blueshirts. It’s a great visual match-up.
There was generally a lot of disagreement about ranking the Penguins logo at #6, and of them wearing Vegas gold in general, but I’m still a huge fan of it. It’s the best logo they’ve had in their history, ahead of the regular gold penguin of the ’70s – ’90s, the corporate-looking 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), and a tremendous Stadium Series jersey. Their move this season to their classic gold jerseys has been pretty great to see as well. So, they’ve also been pretty innovative (but maddeningly inconsistent) in their jersey designs. The fact that their starting to look to a great design era in their past gives me hope though for the future.
The Rangers, on the other hand, were ranked as having the 12th best logo in the league. They 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 and third jerseys are 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.
• More: BTLNHL #12: New York Rangers
Rangers 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 (although I find their lack of colour is disturbing). The Blues are currently wearing the best jerseys they’ve ever worn and with a perfect yellow trim on their design, it becomes a great balance of primary colours on the ice. The visuals will be just as good as the actual hockey with this match-up. Now if there was just some more red in the Blackhawks road jerseys…
St. Louis’ logo is one of the best in the game, but up until their current logo and jersey design, the Blues have been a nightmare. The previous logo was too rounded and hokey-looking (that’s hokey, not hockey) with a mishmash of primary colours, a “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 great. 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 is pretty good too, but they also have one of the absolute best jerseys in the league, with their home reds. 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,
and Vince Vaughn on their side. Where they have fallen short recently is their outdoor games, where the jersey design has been completely uninteresting and looks like a barely repurposed version of their regular jerseys. Granted, they’ve played more outdoor games than any team in the league, and they seem to have become lethargic towards celebrating that in their jerseys for the events. Too bad, because their jersey history could make things interesting. 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 6.
The greenest match-up possible. The worst part of this match-up is that there will only be one team wearing the most criminally under-utilized colour in hockey jerseys in the second round. The excellent Victory Green set from the Dallas Stars against the well-designed Minnesota set showcases two of the best jersey sets in hockey today, especially as more contemporary teams go. It only gets greener if Minnesota wears their excellent alternate jerseys, which also makes the match-up visually better. If that’s the case though, it’s a good thing that they wear two different tones of green, as you may forget who you should be cheering for.
Dallas hasn’t exactly had the best branding in their history. From the uterus jerseys, to the ill-conceived black and white jerseys 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 many missteps since moving to Dallas from Minnesota. Their previous logo was ranked 27th in the league (time to updated the BTLNHL Countdown maybe?), and while the new one isn’t that much better…damn, at least they’re moving in the right direction with those new jerseys. Their new set is among the best in the league right now, bar none. It’s great to see them wearing green consistently again.
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 extremely minor logo changes and constant improvement of their jersey set, as well as introducing some pretty sweet third jerseys. I’m not crazy about the Christmas-themed jerseys, and they’re moving away from being branded 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. So, again, it’s a close match-up.
• More: BTLNHL #16: Minnesota Wild
Minnesota in 6.
In another first round re-match from last year, not much has changed with either team’s branding. And it’s still 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. And both these teams embrace a single colour scheme. Tampa only has blue, Detroit only red. Simple, iconic, stunning. It’s going to be beautiful to watch these two teams battle.
But seriously, this one still 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 logo. And those new third jerseys are pretty inexcusable considering the superiority of their regular jerseys, and their previous third jerseys aren’t much better. 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 on-ice success, and for a southern-US team, they’ve have a tremendous fanbase and community support, but have you seen who they’re playing?
They’re playing Detroit, who has history, a passionate fanbase, and high-quality overall design. Their only missteps have been with a mediocre inclusion of a relatively Winter Classic and Stadium Series jersey, but their second Winter Classic jerseys were pretty fantastic. On top of that, they’re on a 25-year post-season appearance streak and have some of the most respected, classy and feared players in the game. Oh, and octopi. And guess who has the best logo in the league? The Red Wings have never deviated from an excellent and iconic brand. So yeah, it’s not that close.
Detroit in 5