NHL Playoffs 2017 (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 when the most difficult and gruelling tournament in all of sports to win the most beautiful trophy in all of sports begins again, we’ll do all this again.
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. This year, we’ve got the handy and comprehensive brand rankings that we did at the beginning of the season to help us out.
• More: 2016 NHL Brand Power Rankings
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.
Our record through the years?
- 2016: 9-for-15
- 2015: 9-for-15
- 2014: 9-for-15
- 2013: 10-for-15
- 2012: 5-for-15
So over 5 post-seasons, we’re 42-for-75, or 56%. I think we can now definitely say that good branding and design will help you win in the playoffs, right?
Okay, let’s start with the worst jersey match-up in the first round of these playoffs!
It’s a battle of Striped Bowl, featuring two of the worst jersey sets in the league because of the obnoxious and stupidly-designed stripes that cover both jersey sets. And it’s an onslaught of black, orange and red, with some yellow and beige thrown in. It’s a jersey match-up that has all the elegance, refinement and subtlety of a hot dog eating contest, killing your retinas with awful jersey design mixed with no break from the intensity of the colours. If your fans of the teams, enjoy. If you’re a student of design, switch the channel.
Anaheim Ducks NHL Brand Power Ranking: 24th. The Ducks, despite their recent competitiveness and 2006 Stanley Cup victory, are being destroying by their visual brand, especially their league-worst jersey set and mediocre logo. And their competitiveness may be slipping against their California cousins, or so their fans seem to think. But with a logo isn’t that great, 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), pylon-esque Stadium Series jersey and the worst current jersey set in the league, the whole visual brand could use a re-thinking.
Calgary Flames NHL Brand Power Ranking: 20th. Their recent decade on relative ineptitude on the ice has hurt the Flames here, along with their not-great jersey set. Improve those (which they are just by making the playoffs this year) and – along with a great logo and decent brand legacy – they’ll likely jump up. But, at the moment, almost every category can best be described mediocre. Visually, they’ve been incredibly consistent with their logo, using the same logo and colour scheme since moving from Atlanta in 1980. But the jerseys are a mess, with inconsistent and overly complex striping everywhere, and they’ve had some pretty bad jersey designs and alternative logos in the past. But again, the branding – even with all the changes and tweaks – has been incredibly consistent, which only helps a brand that has a good foundation to start with. Oh, and those Heritage Classic jerseys were great.
Prediction: Flames in 7
It’s a massive step-up from 8th to 7th on this list, and the Oilers decision to wear their orange jerseys through the playoffs changes this match-up completely. The games in Edmonton are now a nice mixture of complimentary colours: orange and blue(/teal). The more convoluted Oilers’ jerseys doesn’t really compliment the Sharks’ overly-minimalist approach, but the games in San Jose will look better in that regard…although significantly less colourful as the Oilers’ white road jerseys have much less orange, turning it into a match-up of blue vs teal. So, there’s pros and cons to both of the jersey match-ups in this series.
Edmonton Oilers NHL Brand Power Ranking: 10th. A story of extremes, Edmonton has won more Cups than the vast majority of the league, and have been absolutely terrible for the last decade, with several last-place finishes and this being their first playoff appearance since their trip to the Finals in 2006. McJesus will (and already has) helped that category, and their above-average visual brand keeps them barely in the Top 10. They have one of the better logos in the league and, despite dabbling in different colour schemes (see: navy and copper), they’ve gone back to their classic orange and blue from their glory days. Or rather, they’ve reached even further back and are ditching their home blues in favour of their alternate oranges, both in these playoffs and as regulars next season, which are not as nice as their blues, but help form a new identity for the team without having to carry the burden of Gretzky on their shoulders.
San Jose Sharks NHL Brand Power Ranking: 14th (tie). After years of being known as chokers, the Sharks finally ditched that moniker after last year’s Cup Finals run. The fanbase is confident (but still somewhere un-dedicated?), but a mediocre visual brand also hurts them, as does their historical on-ice performance. But a few more long playoff runs will see their stock rise. And they’ve owned the teal in a market and era that hugely embraced it, which makes sense for a water-dwelling animal like a shark. 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. And say what you want about never winning 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.
Prediction: Oilers in 7
All the primary colours are represented here (yellow, blue and red), so visually, it’s a series that has great splashes of colour – with some caveats. 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?). For Pittsburgh, their new road jerseys are great, but their home blacks are just that – black and relatively monochromatic. While the splashes of that bright classic gold definitely helps, the match-up is still leaning towards the monochromatic too much.
Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Brand Power Ranking: 4th. The only non-Original Six team in the top spots, the Penguins get this high on the basis of their great visual brand (including logo and jerseys), their recent accomplishes (a 2016 Cup, of course, as well as a 10-year playoff streak, which is now the longest in the league), and a fanbase that’s dedicated and engaged. And things don’t seem to be going to change anytime soon. In fact, their brand new (old) jersey set is generally considered an improvement. And their current 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.
Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Brand Power Ranking: 30th. Ooof, last place. What kills Columbus is their on-ice performance, both recently and throughout their existence (although this season has pretty much guaranteed they’ll move up the rankings this year), never getting past the first round of the playoffs. Throw in a mediocre visual brand (aside from their third jersey), and that will all land you in last place. At least they’ve been fairly consistent with the design of their jerseys since their inception, with the only exception being their afore mentioned third jerseys. Their logo though is not good, getting ranked 23rd in our countdown, and 27th in our aggregated ranking.
Prediction: Penguins in 5
The Blackhawks have one of the best jerseys in the league: their classic home reds. The Preds have one of the most underrated and innovative jerseys sets in the league (not sure yet about those gold helmets though). It excellence in classic jersey design versus excellence in modern jersey design. The games in Chicago will look better because (spoiler: unpopular opinion) the ‘Hawks road jerseys aren’t nearly as good as their homes. They’re a great classic design, but too monochromatic and need more red in there. And while the red versus gold makes for an intensely-colourful matchup, the old vs new design aesthetics tend to clash a little bit.
Chicago Blackhawks NHL Brand Power Ranking: 1st. The Blackhawks are the closest thing modern hockey has to a dynasty, with 3 Cups in the last 7 seasons. With a visual brand among the best in the league and a rabid fanbase that is relatively confident in their ability to continue their dominance, it’s hard to think of a brand that’s more prominent right now that the ‘Hawks. They 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). They have 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. But overall, from a branding perspective, they’re a beast.
Nashville Predators NHL Brand Power Ranking: 21st (tie). There’s no question that Nashville is trending upwards. They’ve got a fearsome team, a pumped-up fanbase and are most likely only to improve their on-ice performance results. Their visual brand isn’t considered great, although it’s an improvement over their past logos/jerseys. They had some design missteps (primarily their former alternative logos – checkerboard…really? – and third jerseys), but their current jerseys are solid and their fans have latched onto the mustard yellow and own it. It’s – in a lot of ways – one of the few continuous success stories in the NHL’s southern expansion.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 4
Despite the Senators not having great jerseys (assuming they don’t wear their heritage “O” jerseys during the playoffs), this is a classic example of a jersey match-up that the sum is greater than its parts…at least from Ottawa’s perspective because the Bruins have absolutely great jerseys. As much as I’m generally not crazy about black jerseys, it’s so perfectly balanced with a large amount of gold and white that it just works. And the Sens’ jerseys work great with them, bringing a ton of colour to the Bruins’ road whites and balancing the black with some of their own. Their road whites don’t bring enough colour to the table though.
Ottawa Senators NHL Brand Power Ranking: 23rd. The lowest Canadian team, their era of on-ice success (culminating in a trip to the 2007 Cup Finals) is bookended by years of not much, getting to the Conference Finals only one other time. Their visual branding – aside from their historical third jerseys – doesn’t excite either. They have what I previously called a borderline minor-league logo and the worst logo in the league for a Canadian team, 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. Now, if they actually moved to using their historical “O” jerseys full time…
Boston Bruins NHL Brand Power Ranking: 3rd. The fanbase seems concerned. And maybe they should be with the Bruins missing the playoffs that last couple seasons and needing almost 80 games to get in again. But everywhere else, they’re a force. Recent success + historical success + one of the best visual brands in the league = a tough brand to beat. They have the 2nd-best logo 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 have their brand, their identity, stamped on everything. Their only missteps visually are their alternative logos and jerseys over the last 40 years, like bizarro leopard-bear of the ’70s and the smiling Smokey Bear in the ’90s and ’00s. But yeah, they’re still the Bruins.
• BTLNHL Finals: Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings
Prediction: Bruins in 5
A classic red versus blue match-up, featuring the consistently classic and minimalist Leafs jerseys again Captials jerseys that have much more modern sensibilities. This is all assuming that the Caps don’t wear their vintage reds this year. Because of the Leafs’ more minimalist approach, the jerseys don’t clash in styles as much as the aforementioned ‘Hawks-Preds match-up. And the Cap’s road whites have enough red in them to break up the blue and white of the Leafs. It’s a solid jersey match-up with slightly competing styles that don’t detract enough to make it slide down the rankings further.
Washington Capitals NHL Brand Power Ranking: 12th. They haven’t been great in the past, but the current Capitals are definitely among the top contenders in the league. The fanbase is engaged, interested, and ready for most of the recent on-ice success they’ve enjoyed. Too bad the logo and jerseys don’t quite keep up that same pace. The Caps have never had what could be considered a great logo. 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. But the Weagle, their alternative logo – a classy and well-executed design – and their 2015 Winter Classic jersey are great.
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Brand Power Ranking: 5th. How does a team that has been near or at the bottom of the standing for several years get ranked this high? With a great visual brand, a rabid fanbase and the second most Cups in the league, that’s how. If their on-ice performance continues to climb, so will they in the brand power rankings. Their logo is ranked a respectable 8th in the our countdown (and 9th in aggregate) and has remained relatively unaltered in its concept since 1917. Their jerseys have barely changed as well in the last 90+ years, almost always having 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. Overall, there’s been very few miscues for the franchise in terms of their branding…aside from the product on the ice, going 50 years now without a Cup appearance, let alone a Cup.
Prediction: Leafs in 6
I love this match-up, assuming the Wild wear their green third jerseys (which they did last year) and not their red regulars. A cool-coloured green and blue match-up, with just a touch of yellow to bring some warmth and intensity. And both jersey sets combine modern and classic aesthetics, so they work well together in that sense as well. This is a great-looking modern jersey match-up that should be aesthetically-pleasing to watch in either city.
Minnesota Wild NHL Brand Power Ranking: 13th. Minnesota’s rabid fanbase propels the Wild upward despite a low confidence level, which is a testament to how dedicated they are to their team. The recent (and historic) on-ice performances haven’t been good, and stuck in a tough division, it’s unsure whether we’ll see any improvement. What does help? Having a killer third jersey and a decent visual brand. In fact, they generally have what’s the best logo out of all the expansion teams and logo redesigns that emerged during the ’90s (though that’s not setting the bar very high). But, they have maintained a very consistent brand, with extremely minor logo changes and constant improvement of their jersey set, as well as some pretty sweet third jerseys (that we’ll hopefully continue to see next season).
St Louis Blues NHL Brand Power Ranking: 9th. Despite a relatively low net worth (the lowest of any team ranked this high), they may actually improve in that category (along with their fanbase’s dedication) with the departure of the Rams to LA. They’ve also been a contender for a few years now, and finally improved their jersey set to reflect what’s one of the best logos in the league. The Blues are also the highest-ranked non-Cup-winning team. Also, their logo is one of the best in the game, but their past visual design has 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.
Prediction: Blues in 7
The match-up of the leagues most iconic jerseys! Was there any doubt this would take the top spot? A classic red-vs-blue match-up between Montreal’s reds and the Blueshirts of New York. Even the white road jerseys of both these teams are some of the best in the league, with a nice amount of colour of the shoulder yokes and stripings. It actually might get a bit confusing as the two teams have almost identical jerseys in many ways, but just with the blues and reds swapping places. Regardless, it’s another excellent series that will be an absolute pleasure to watch more matter what team you’re cheering for or what the score is.
Montreal Canadiens NHL Brand Power Ranking: 2nd. The Habs missed first by being dragged down by the lack of confidence of their fanbase (which was apparently not well-placed). Otherwise, they dominate. The best logo for a Canadian team in the NHL (and 5th overall). 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. Also, they have by far the best historical on-ice performance – 24 Cups will do that – as well as wearing the best jerseys in the league. This season and any run they could go on in these playoffs will tell if they can climb to the top spot anytime soon (and convince their fans to have faith). The 24 banners hanging in the rafters in Montreal can attest to a small amount of success as well, which is always important to a brand’s perception.
• More: BTLNHL #5: Montreal Canadiens
New York Rangers NHL Brand Power Ranking: 7th. The Original Six teams are dominant brands in the league (with history usually comes legacy and becoming iconic). The Rangers’ net worth is miles above most of the majority of the league, and they’ve had a couple good runs lately, but the fanbase isn’t confident that’s going to continue. They’re easily the weakest of the Original Six teams. They were ranked as having the 12th best logo in the league, using 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. In short, they’re not a brand to be taken lightly.
• More: BTLNHL #12: New York Rangers
Prediction: Canadiens in 7