Playoff hockey in any league is arguably the greatest time of the year due to the fact you get to see the best teams play, in an effort to win a Championship….. Or do you get to see the best teams play?
The Western Hockey League changed playoff formats along with the NHL at the start of the 2014 season. Instead of the traditional 1 vs 8 format, it changed to promote ‘division rivalries’ and also to do its best to avoid a situation such as Brandon playing Calgary who are over 1100 km apart. This format has the 2 division leaders playing a Wild Card team, and the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in each division playing each other in the 1st round.
This year the format in the WHL was completely exposed, and I don’t think it could be any worse.
The Eastern Conference’s 2nd and 3rd ranked teams (Swift Current and Regina) will play each other in Round 1. The Eastern Conference’s 8th and 9th ranked teams (Lethbridge and Red Deer) will also play each other in the Round 1. Meanwhile the Conference’s 7th ranked team (Saskatoon) will miss the playoffs due to the flawed system. The flawed system also cost Saskatoon’s Head Coach, Dean Brockman his job. The Brandon Wheat Kings will travel to Medicine Hat for Round 1 of the playoffs. What doesn’t make sense about this, is the fact that Brandon had 5 more points than the Tigers, but due to Medicine Hat being a division leader, they host the 1st round.
Let’s skip ahead to the 2nd round. All signs point to Swift Current beating Regina and playing Moose Jaw. The CHL top 10 has Moose Jaw ranked 2nd, and Swift Current ranked 4th. So, the top 2 teams in the Country are a probable matchup in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Doesn’t make much sense. Meanwhile, the 72-point Lethbridge Hurricanes or the 67 point Red Deer Rebels will also be in the 2nd round over the Memorial Cup host Regina pats, who had 87 points.
The Western Conference has 2 less teams, which doesn’t get as exposed in this playoff format. Although, the 6th ranked Victoria Royals will be hosting the 7th ranked Vancouver Giants in the 1st round.
In the NHL, the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference are all in the same division and just like the Eastern Conference in the WHL. The 2nd and 3rd best teams in the Conference (Boston and Toronto) will play each other in the 1st round.
The changes were supposed to get division rivalries and who doesn’t love that. Although, seeing the best teams outweigh that in my opinion. The only solution to this is to go back to the old playoff format, this year, it couldn’t of gotten any worse for the Western Hockey League in this format.