NHL Playoffs 2022: Round 1 Countdown and Predictions
For the last nine years now, we’ve made predictions for all the playoff rounds based on the branding of that team, and since – after much delay – it’s that most wonderful time of the year when the most difficult and grueling tournament in all of sports to win the most beautiful trophy in all of sports begins again, we’ll do all this again for the tenth(!) year in a row.
Welcome to the 11th edition of Hockey by Design’s annual playoff predictions.
A refresher for how this’ll 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.
Additionally, 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 head-to-head than others, and we’ll outline why. For 2022’s first round pairings, there is a very clear top three, followed by a handful of so-so interchangeable match ups and a definitive bottom of the pack. So there you go – let’s kick things off with the worst jersey match-up of the first round…
I surprised myself having this match up at the bottom. On paper, it seems like a good match up: lots of blue with a bit of burgundy and yellow to brighten things up. Seems legit.
It’s painful to put the Maple Leafs at the bottom of any jersey countdown. Their brand is an anchor, an all-timer, a standard-setter…it’s elite. However, you know how the playoffs go – it’s all about match ups. For this particular match up of visuals on the ice, it’s unfortunately going to look like an inter-squad scrimmage. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider the Maple Leafs flattered.
Toronto Maple Leafs visual brand: As mentioned, Toronto’s look is an all-time classic. As an original-six franchise they’ve pretty much been a model of consistency. The striping patterns and shape of the leaf have evolved and come back around over the years, but overall they are tough to beat.
Tampa Bay Lightning visual brand: Ups and downs are a good way to describe the visual history of the Lightning. They were born out of the 90’s, and it shows via the visible angst in some of their third jerseys over the years. Lately, they’ve settled on a more traditional look that works well in a lot of ways, yet at the same time leaves something more to be desired.
Prediction: Leafs in 4
This series is a unique one, and for the purposes of this countdown it leads off the next batch of match ups that fall into a “meh” category. Gold and navy paired against blue and maroon is an odd overall color palette. There’s enough going on between the look of each team that it’s somewhat difficult to pinpoint any specific element. Of course there are pros and cons to each team’s look, but when paired together the aesthetics are a bit lackluster.
Colorado Avalanche visual brand: The Avs recent removal of black as an accent color has been an underrated, but really great addition by subtraction to their overall look. It gives them a cleaner and brighter visual identity that allows for better consistency across all elements of their home and away unis. Mix in their specialty jerseys and they look almost as good as they’ve played this season.
Nashville Predators visual brand: The Preds have gone all in on gold as the centerpiece of their visual identity. This evolution comes after some hits and misses over the years; their current look gets bonus points for simplifying the overall brand when compared to all those stripes and piping and color blocking on jerseys of years past. Let’s also not forget this season’s Stadium Series jersey – a design concept centered around the Hatch Show Print lettering style that received very mixed reviews.
Prediction: Avs in 5
We’ll call this Eastern Conference battle Striping vs. Piping. For this matchup, navy and red take center stage as both squads feature white and red jerseys paired with navy pants. Florida’s bold center stripe does contrast nicely against the thin piping trim of the Capitals, but that’s pretty much the most notable visual difference in this matchup. The Panthers add a dash of gold in there for good measure, but when watching this series there won’t be a ton of visual interest overall.
Washington Capitals visual brand: Recent consistency is probably the best compliment you can give the Caps look, as they’ve been pretty set in their ways since ditching the screaming eagle back in 2007…even though the eagle reemerged via their Reverse Retro look and is rumored to be coming back again next season. Other than that, a modern jersey template with color blocking and piping paired with a word mark as the primary logo has always felt like it misses the mark… especially when it seems like they could be doing so much more.
Florida Panthers visual brand: The rebranded look of the Panthers has been around for roughly seven years already… time flies! Even in all that time, when I initially think of the Panthers branding, my first thought goes back to their original logo and jerseys. Is that an indictment on the current look or simply nostalgia for the original look? The current logo is good – it’s clean, sharp and well-designed… but it just lacks… something. All in all though, the overall visual identity works well enough to get past the Caps in this round.
Prediction: Panthers in 6
The classic old-school look of the Bruins takes on the ever-evolving identity of the Hurricanes for this #5 match up on our first round countdown. Boston’s tried and true spoked B has been a staple of NHL branding since its initial inception back in the ‘40s. Contrast that to the Hurricanes, who in recent years have developed three different primary chest logos for each of their three different jerseys. The Bruins alone could make a case for this match up to be ranked higher, but the Canes scattered visual identity keeps this match up at #5.
Carolina Hurricanes visual brand: The Hurricanes started their tenure in Carolina with a steadily consistent look for the first decade or so. Then, for the past 10 years there’s been a pretty steady stream of minor tweaks and adjustments to their overall brand. Currently, across their three jerseys – each one has its own unique striping pattern, shoulder yokes/patches and primary logo resulting in little to no visual consistency other than the color palette.
Boston Bruins visual brand: The Bruins’ black and gold is a gold standard in its own right. One of the most consistent brands in the NHL, this long-standing look from Beantown makes a case for one of the top 5 identities in the entire league…even with the infamous “pooh bear” jersey included in their history. Speaking of which, will it make a return in the next Reverse Retro iteration?
Prediction: Bruins in 4
This will be the most controversial ranking of these first round pairings, as most will say this match up is ranked too high. An easy argument could be made that both of these teams looked better in previous iterations of their respective jerseys, and that’s not wrong. However, from a purely aesthetic viewpoint – the orange and navy of the Oilers pairs nicely via a pop of contrast against the black, white and silver of the Kings. Then again, I’ll also watch this series and wish for the Gretzky-era looks from both franchises to make a permanent return. Oh, what could be…
Edmonton Oilers visual brand: Sporting one of the most unique and probably one of the most underrated logos in the NHL, the Oilers seem to keep getting in their own way when it comes to unnecessarily reinventing their color palette…which hinders the overall visual identity of the team. It’s easy to fall back on nostalgia as a crutch when it comes to design, but for Edmonton’s color palette: they got it right the first go-round. Time to go back.
Los Angeles Kings visual brand: For the Kings, their current look is diminished by not only one, but two of their previous logos and jersey designs. The gold and purple (or forum blue if you prefer) of the mid-60’s to mid-80’s, as well as the black and silver of the late 80’s to the late 90’s are both superior to the present-day Kings of LA. On a positive note, they’re heading in the right direction with the current third jersey, and utilizing actual silver fabric is a nice touch to all of the current jersey designs…but the chrome helmets take that emphasis on silver a tad too far.
Prediction: Oilers in 6
Now, let’s kick off the top 3 match ups of the first round…and really, these pairings are a clear cut top 3 when compared to the rest of the field. All feature solid logos, great jersey designs and contrasting, bold color palettes that will create great visual interest when watching the games. For the Wild vs. Blues series, what’s not to like? This match up will look good in both St. Louis and Minnesota, as each team’s home and away jerseys pair really well against each other.
Minnesota Wild visual brand: Minnesota has been very successful with their overall brand since the team’s first season in 2000. They’ve threaded the needle in terms of a visual identity that’s new and modern, while also creating a look that feels established and classic. Mix in their Stadium Series and Winter Classic jerseys and the overall package works well.
St. Louis Blues visual brand: The Blues are a case study for how to evolve a brand identity over the years via modernized updates, all while keeping true to core visual landmarks of the franchise. Every era of Blues jerseys have worked well for the time period, and they’ve known exactly when to pull the trigger on brand refreshes and jersey design updates.
Prediction: Blues in 7
The Flames returning to their red/yellow roots and ditching black as a brand color is easily one of the best moves in terms of branding for any NHL team in the past decade. Removing the black and simplifying the jersey design was an instant, dramatic upgrade to Calgary’s brand. Similarly, Dallas’ rebrand in 2013 was a HUGE upgrade from their odd word mark jersey era that lasted way longer than it should have. Fast forward to this match up and we get these beautiful color palettes going head-to-head. Bright red and yellow vs. Kelly green and black… chef’s kiss.
Calgary Flames visual brand: As mentioned, Calgary’s decision to finally return to their look from the 80’s to the early 90’s was far overdo. They fell victim to the 90’s trend of forcing black into all things design and branding…and for whatever reason they held onto that trend for about 20 years too long. Even though black made a return for their Reverse Retro “Blasty” jersey, it works as a one-off look. Now, their modernized jersey designs are top-notch all around.
Dallas Stars visual brand: Another well-done rebrand, which somehow is already almost 10 years old(!), the Stars re-embraced a true Kelly green (a criminally underused color across all sports) for their sleek, clean look. Similar to the Flames, their current look and jersey designs create a modernized, yet classic, feel. However, points are deducted for their current neon third jersey and the recent all white/silver Reverse Retro looks. Yeeesh.
Prediction: Flames in 6
Was there any doubt? Two iconic franchises, two stellar brands and two pillars of NHL branding and design going head-to-head in this first round match up. Not only do these two franchises look spectacular on their own, but they’re going to look great battling out against each other on the ice. Royal blue and red pitted against black and gold creates so much visual interest, and oh yeah – throw in an all-timer of a Penguins logo vs. New York’s famous angled chest lettering and you’ve got yourself the #1 visual aesthetics match up of round one.
New York Rangers visual brand: The Rangers brand identity has been consistent for a little while now…only about a hundred years. They absolutely own the look of diagonal chest lettering and block shadow numbers and letters. Their entire uni set creates the perfect balance of red, white and blue. Throw in their numerous special event jerseys, whether it’s been a Stadium Series, third jersey or a Winter Classic look, and they’ve been able to flex the brand in a way that usually works pretty well. All in all – never change New York.
Pittsburgh Penguins visual brand: Overall, the Penguins’ visual history is pretty rich and diverse. You’ve got the powder blue era from the 60’s – 70s, the first black and gold era that kicked off in 1980, the 90’s robo-penguin, then the “true” gold (or Vegas gold) look from the early 2000’s into 2016 and now finally, the full circle return to the original black and gold with the skating penguin. Through all of these brand evolutions, they’ve landed in the best spot, as the current look is by far their best look.
Prediction: Rangers in 7