Thursday, January 19, 2012

Playoffs under Realignment

Don't tell Jim Mora, but this is where we talk about... playoffs.

Under the proposed realignment, the top four teams from each division will make the playoffs. This is one of the reasons that the NHLPA cites for rejecting the proposed realignment. Players feel that it will be easier for the teams with only seven teams to make it into the playoffs, since it is over half the teams in the conference, and it will be more difficult for the teams with eight teams in the conference to qualify for the playoffs. This is true and is only compounded by the fact that the conferences with eight teams are more competitive and have a harder battle for points in order to make the points. But I've discussed this and won't bore you again.

One thing that changes under the proposed alignment is that the playoffs will primarily be kept within the conference. Under the current structure, there are two conferences made up of three divisions. The division leaders secure the top three seeds, and the rest of the teams, regardless of division, vie for the remaining five slots, so there is a total of eight teams in each conference that are eligible for the playoffs. the proposed realignment will have the top four teams in each conference battle it out for supremacy and will then play the other conferences to win the Cup. It might be that Conference A will play Conference B and Conference C will play Conference D. The winners would play each other for the Stanley Cup. What this change brings about is increased rivalry within the conferences. Not only are you playing the other teams within your conference six times during the regular season, but you are also meeting them to knock them out in order to advance in the race to the Stanley Cup. I think this could bring more passion to games both from the players and from the fans.

But the players have a point. Is this playoff structure fair? Should a seven-team conference have the same number of playoff teams as an eight-team conference? I see why the NHL selected four teams per conference, but the players have a legitimate point. The only thing I can see as fair is for a seven-team conference to match up with an eight-team one, and the top eight teams then vie for playoff spots. Maybe that sounds familiar? But which conferences? And doesn't this take away from the more intensified conference rivalries that the proposed realignment seems to push? I think the NHL just towed the line that compromises have to be made and although some teams won't be as happy as others about the changes, this a better way to do things. So maybe Mora was right, and we shouldn't talk about the playoffs.

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