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IS There A Flaw In The Playoff Format?

from Stu Hackel of the Red Light,

Another thing that first place will give the Sharks – as it does all division-winners — is home ice advantage in the first round. And that provision in the NHL playoff format can handicap other teams that have a better record but a lower playoff seed.

That inequity is most pronounced this season with the relative mediocrity of the Pacific and the even weaker Southeast compared to the league’s strongest divisions, the Central and Atlantic. The way things are shaping up, the winners of the Pacific and Southeast will finish with fewer points than three teams in each of the two powerhouse divisions, but have a higher first round seed.

read on

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink



Definitely there’s a flaw.  Instead of giving the division winners the top 3 seeds, they should only be guaranteed one of the top 8 seeds.  The seedings should be based on point totals, especially now that teams play only 6 not 8 games against each divisional rival.

Posted by Kel on 03/27/12 at 07:51 PM ET

Alzy's avatar

Since I can’t see the league ever devaluing the divisions to the degree Kel suggested, why not a compromise at least? I don’t like a lot of what the NBA does, but one thing they have right IMO is the top 4 seeding. If the 4th place team has a better record than the other two division champions, they get ranked accordingly. So for Example, Detroit would be 3rd currently and SJ would fall to 4th.

Isn’t this going to be a moot point when the league goes to the new (old) 4 conference format anyways?

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 03/27/12 at 11:29 PM ET

awould's avatar

This isn’t a new problem and it is brought up every year when the 3 seed in one or both conferences has fewer pts than the 4 seed.

This season makes it more apparent is all.

But won’t the league’s realignment change this?

Posted by awould on 03/28/12 at 02:23 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Screw that, the Conferences should be eliminated altogether and teams should be seeded 1- 16.

That certainly would highlight which conference is better, would it not?  Then the best 16 teams all truly get in…

But won’t the league’s realignment change this?

Posted by awould on 03/28/12 at 12:23 AM ET

The NHLPA killed off that plan because apparently Eastern Conference players wield too much say in the PA.  It’s dead, and there will be no realignment,

Posted by Primis on 03/28/12 at 09:25 AM ET

phillyd's avatar

No, the league realignment won’t change it as you could conceivably have 7 teams in the “new” conference ahead of a playoff team(s) in one of the other. They should do what the NBA is doing this year, which I didn’t know about until they started talking about the Sixers’, who lead the Atlantic Division, seed. The division winners can be seeded no lower than 4th. So, in this case in the NBA, Orlando, would be the 3rd seed even though Miami is winning that division instead of the 4th seed as that is where the Sixers (or whoever leads/wins their division) are seeded.

In this scenario, in the East, the Rangers would be 1, Boston 2, Pittsburgh/Philly 3, Florida 4, then Pittsburgh/Philly 5 and the rest seeded normally. I actually like it better then the current as it still rewards the division winners with home ice in the first round, but would result in a somewhat more fair seeding. As it stands now, in both conferences, you’re going to end up with a CF matchup in the 1st round.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 03/28/12 at 09:36 AM ET


For practical reasons (travel, game start times), there will always be conferences. There is no chance the league would abandon that and go 1-16.  I would happy to see the “guaranteed home ice” approach as an improvement over the existing one.  By the way, not only the Eastern Conference players opposed the realignment.  Some Western Conference players opposed because of they don’t like the fact that they play in a large conference with lowered chance of making the playoffs.  The unfair playoff format and travel were listed as the two biggest complaints, and I would think that a significant number of players care about the former.

Posted by Kel on 03/28/12 at 03:14 PM ET

phillyd's avatar

Posted by Kel on 03/28/12 at 01:14 PM ET

Spot on an don’t forget, under the current format, the western teams usually would only make 1 trip East. Under the proposed format they would’ve needed to make 3 or more trips east (of Detroit/Columbus/Nashville). That was another major sticking point for the NHLPA as well.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 03/28/12 at 03:23 PM ET

awould's avatar

The typical argument is that a guaranteed 3-seed for the Division winner unfairly helps a weak winner of a very weak Division.

But it also helps a decent team in a weak division. Vancouver was helped this season by playing in the NW Division, which has exactly zero other teams in the playoffs. I’d argue they’re helped more by this than SJ, or whoever the current leader in the Pacific is. At least they have 3 teams currently in the playoffs. The teams in the Central have cannibalized a lot of points by beating up on each other all season. How many more points would Detroit or Nashville have if they were able to play Colorado/Minnesota/Edmonton a few more times each season? How many fewer points would Vancouver have if they had to face St. Louis or Nashville more?

If the NHL parity is so real, and if that’s one of the goals of all the CBA talks and rules changes, then do away with the guaranteed home ice for a division winner. It unfairly rewards a crap team - it happens every season in one conference. This season it is just more apparent. Especially in the East where the Pens are sitting at 4 seed but have more pts than the 2 and 3 seed.

Posted by awould on 03/28/12 at 03:48 PM ET

phillyd's avatar

Posted by awould on 03/28/12 at 01:48 PM ET

And to take it another step, the top 4 teams, points wise, in the East could all be in the Atlantic division and the Islanders could even finish 10th if they finish strong. That would be an entire division in the Top 10 of the conference. It’s similar with the Central, but not all of those teams will go above Vancouver. I don’t think the new realignment plans did anything to fix this. I also think the NBA reseeds now after the 1st round based on regular season record, not seed, but I could be wrong on that. I’d like to see the NHL do that so that if, say, 3 remianing Atlantic Division teams advance, the top two would get home-ice instead of, say, having Boston get home-ice in the 2nd round because they are still a division winner and seeded #2.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 03/28/12 at 03:55 PM ET


It’s weird (and by weird I mean totally expected) that no one seems to have a problem with the current setup when the weakest divisions aren’t the Pacific and Southeast.

Posted by RoneFace on 03/28/12 at 11:17 PM ET

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