NHL Playoffs 2016 (Cup Finals) Countdown and Predictions
We’re down to the final two teams in the last (meaningful) NHL match-up until October (not counting the World Cup of Hockey). How’d it go in the Conference Finals? 1-for-2. That brings this year’s total to 8-for-14 (after going 3-for-8 in the first round and 4-for-4 in the second round). We’re guaranteed an over .500 finish. Yay good branding!
We’re going to change things up for the Finals. As always, 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 since there’s only one match-up left, we’re ranking all 15 of the match-ups from this year’s playoffs 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.
But first, let’s make our branding-based prediction for the Cup Finals between the Sharks and Penguins, and it’s match-up ranking is in the list below, slotted in its rightful place.
Cup Finals Prediction
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 they’re starting to look to a great design era in their past gives me hope though for the future.
For the Sharks, they’ve never strayed from their original concept since inception, and as my interview with the designer Terry Smith revealed, they’ve owned the teal in a market and era that hugely embraced it. 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 (but I think they’ve totally annihilated that joke at this point). And despite this being their first dance in the Cup Finals, they’ve been a perennial Western power for a long time now, and that kind of success can build a solid brand and fanbase, regardless of any negatives.
So, it’s close, but again, the better logo has to take it.
Penguins in 7
And now with the jersey matchup rankings!
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.
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!
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. This is just a case of two good-to-great jerseys not playing as well together as other match-ups. The Flyers have a more classic aesthetic while the Caps have a more modern aesthetic. The games in Philly were the better ones, visually-speaking.
When comparing the Penguins’ first-round matchup (coming up below), I considered the classic Penguins’ gold was the better compliment to the Rangers’ white jerseys? In this case, it’s their Vegas gold whites that work better with the Capitals’ jersey set. Both jerseys use similar fluid lines/stripes in their designs that compliment each other well, and the aggressiveness of the Caps’ red jerseys (and their contemporary design) are great against a more subdued and contemporary Vegas gold. That same Caps aesthetic, on their white road jerseys, then collides with the aggressiveness and different-era aesthetics of the Penguin’s classic gold throwbacks. So, the Washington games will look great. It’s the Pittsburgh games that drag this match-up down a bit.
Finally, the Sharks left 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, even though it apparently worked, now that they’re in the Cup Finals. 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 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.
This series features two really nice individual sets of jerseys. And they work just okay against each other. The problem is having two many tones of blue involved. There’s teal, there’s royal blue and there’s navy blue. It’s just a bit too much and the addition of yellow and orange stripes aren’t helping matters either. It should be an awesome match-up hockey-wise, just not as great aesthetically.
The Cup Finals matchup comes in at the mid-way point in the countdown. There’s an argument to be made to rank it higher – as the teal versus gold (Vegas or classic) looks really great – but it’s kept this far down because of both team’s road white jerseys. They’re nicely designed, but there’s just not enough colour on either of them to compliment their opponents’ home jerseys. Regardless, it’s been a fantastic year for jersey match-ups, so ranking them this low is not necessarily indicative of it being a bad match-up, but there’s just been so many great ones…which we’re getting to.
We’ve crossed into the top half, which feature some really great jersey matchups that are incredibly difficult to rank as they all look really great, for different reasons. But it’s not much of a countdown without every matchup being ranked, so at #7 is a great visual match-up, featuring two teams that have made a mess of their visual branding in the past and are now righting that ship, with two sets of jerseys that prominently feature two tones of royal blue with some white accents. And the Islanders bring a perfect amount of complementary orange into it, and you’re got a great colour scheme to work with. The fact that both jerseys then eliminate any extraneous and/or superfluous stripes in their jersey design – opting only for big thick solid stripes throughout – just ups the quality of the match-up visually. Yup, it’s pretty awesome.
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.
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…
This is a really great match-up aesthetically, for a few different reasons. In Pittsburgh, you got the vintage Penguins gold-and-black against the minimalist modernism of the Lightning’s white jerseys. And in Tampa, the modern Vegas gold against the aggressively-blue Lightning home jerseys. The gold (Vegas or otherwise) looks great against the blue. And unlike their previous match-ups (Rangers and Capitals), the Penguins’ decision to have a traditional jersey at home and a more contemporary jersey for the road doesn’t hurt this match-up. The Bolts’ jersey set walks the line between being classic and modern at the same time, so the match-up will look great in either city.
It’s not a classic red-vs-blue match-up, but I’ll still take this green-vs-blue anyday, especially when it involves two of the nicer jersey sets in the league. Both are modern designs with strong historical roots, boast a good amount of colour and simple (and consistent) striping patterns. Both of the white jerseys add a lot of colour to the match-up and both home dark jerseys are offset by a good amount of white and/or black. It was both both fun and beautiful to watch.
This match-up this high on the list is – admittedly – unexpected. But the more I look at what the gold versus teal match-up, I just get mesmerized. Not just by the colours, but by the two jerseys that pair up surprising well together…both their home jerseys are aggressively colourful using very contemporary colours, and the teams’ respective whites balance the others out with modern lines and relatively simple design. And I’ll say it now…I’m a big fan of the Predators jersey set. They’re unconventional, but well-designed. And the Sharks teal jerseys are miles ahead of their black ones, so again, I’m glad they ditched those for these ones. It’s a great looking modern match-up. Enjoy it!
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 was beautiful to watch these two teams battle. It’s just too bad that it was the first series to finish.