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KHL invents playoff losers’ bracket, winner gets draft pick; NHL, steal this idea

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In the NHL, 16 teams make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and 14 teams work on their respective golf games at the end of the regular season. But what if there was a way for those eliminated teams to play on, with something on the line?

The Kontinental Hockey League announced on Tuesday that it’s radically reinventing its postseason. Igor Eronko of Sports.ru had the details via Twitter:

KHL will have consolation tourney this season. Teams that didn't get to the playoffs will fight for $500k prize in playoff format. The decision on consolation came today. It will be called 'Cup of Hope'.

[By the way: $500,000 equals 15 million rubles.]

It's made cause [the] KHL regular championship ends in middle of February and has just 52 games to make everything possible for team Russia in preparations for Sochi as it was requested by [Russian Ice Hockey Federation]. So teams that didn't get to #KHL playoffs could have a bit longer season.

To the winner? According to Eronko, they will be given a draft pick at the next KHL Draft. The details are hazy, but it could be a top pick.

Well that’s fun.

According to KHL.ru, the “Cup of Hope” tournament will feature the No. 9 through No. 12 seeds in the Eastern Conference and the No. 9 through No. 14 seeds in the West. The East begins its tournament in the quarterfinal round, while the West will have a qualifying round before quarters.

The KHL will provide funding for the tournament, including the prize pool, the officials and a new “Hope Cup” that the winner will receive. The tournament will last until the end of March.

Now, granted, this tournament could be a one-shot deal. The KHL admits that its purpose is to “save the interest of hockey fans and maintaining fitness and tone of the game of hockey players, including the possible candidates for the national team”, and one gets the feeling that the “interest of hockey fans” is secondary to training for the national team.

Still … it’s quite an idea.

Consolation brackets are prevalent in many sports tournaments, especially in international competition. (Hell, even “Top Chef” has “Last Chance Kitchen”, and those winners compete in the season finale.) While there’s something to be said for the finality of the regular season and the concept of “elimination”, it’s hard to argue against an essential craving we all have, which is “more hockey.”

(And an essential craving franchise owners have, which is “fans paying admission well after the season ends.”)

We’re not saying a 14-team “losers’ bracket” would fly in the NHL, because it wouldn’t – many fans treat the League like it’s dead to them after their team is knocked out, and we doubt the “Hope Cup” is going to be the flame to their moth.

But let's say there's a tournament that's held not for just a "top pick" but for THE top pick.

But if you’re someone that despises the draft lottery, or feels as though the No. 1 pick in the draft shouldn’t always go to the most futile team in the League … well then, a mini-tournament between the bottom four teams in the League for the chance to draft first overall has at least some appeal, doesn’t it?

Even if it would be the N.I.T. to the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ March Madness.

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