This is so confusing they might not even award the Stanley Cup next year.

This is so confusing they might not even award the Stanley Cup next year.

The NHL has long convoluted its standings in a way that made it nearly impossible for non-hockey fans to understand what the hell was going on. There were points for overtime losses in addition to ties for a period of several years before Gary Bettman and Co. put a bullet in ties’ head following the 2005 lockout.

Now, there’s wins, losses, and overtime or shootout losses, except that not all wins are created equal because wins in shootouts don’t really count as much as regulation or overtime wins in the event of a tie in the standings, which are more common than you might think (Columbus, you’ll recall, missed the playoffs because they had two fewer wins, and three fewer in regulation or overtime, despite having the same 55 points as the Minnesota Wild).

So how, then, did the NHL decide that it could make things even more difficult to figure out? By reconfiguring the conferences so that there were 16 teams in the East and only 14 in the West and also, as a consequence, having to completely change the way in which teams are seeded into the playoffs.

Ah, you thought it was weird when the top eight clubs in each 15-team conference made the playoffs based on the number of points they accumulated but then also factored in how they accumulated them? Well, now things are a lot stupider.

Try explaining this to someone you know who isn’t into hockey (or hell, even someone who is): The top three teams from each of the league’s four divisions are guaranteed to make the playoffs, based on the number of points accumulated over the course of the season, with ties being broken first by the number of wins a team has and then by the number of wins it has in either regulation or overtime. After those three teams have been slotted into a divisional playoff setting in which they only play each other, the final two slots in the conference playoffs are taken from the best point totals (using the same tiebreaker system) from the remaining 10 teams in the Eastern Conference and eight in the West, regardless of division, but would not be slotted into their own divisional playoffs regardless of the division in which they play. After the first round of the playoffs, each team advances without being re-seeded, and so on, until the Stanley Cup Final.

We’re months out from this change being announced, and I’m still sitting here a more than a little confused by the various machinations at work.

“We tend to use common sense around here and this seems to make a lot of common sense,” John Davidson said out loud, lyingly. “When you get out the ledger sheet and you go pros and cons, I don’t think there is anything on the negative side.”

How about the fact, JD, that this makes no sense at all, period? Would have loved to see another wild card slot for the teams that do the best in a team three-legged race (my money’s on a David Desharnais/Brian Gionta combo; gotta love that low center of gravity).

This is a legitimately crazy and utterly nonsensical playoff system that is almost impossible to understand, and one that could very easily lead to lots of complaining about inequity. For instance, the third-place team in Conference III could very well be someone like Minnesota, and Minnesota could very well finish with fewer points than, say, the fourth- or even fifth-place team in the Other One. Is Minnesota in a position to be worse than four or five of San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Anaheim, Phoenix, and Edmonton? I think that’s very possible, even likely. But the Wild would still get preferential treatment in terms of seeding over whoever finishes fourth or fifth out of that group because they wouldn’t have to face one of the two divisional top seed.

Or what about the fact that it’s now easier to make the playoffs in the West than it is in the East? Ah screw it, the Eastern Conference teams get to travel less, so they can do with a little more difficulty in making the postseason in the first place. Again, utter nonsense.

But you do have to give the new plan this: It will keep things interesting, if only because you’re going to be sitting there around mid-March and, unless your team is closing in on 100 points, have no idea what the hell is actually going to need to happen for them to qualify for the playoffs.

I think, though, it’ll be most interesting in the Eastern Conference, simply because there are going to be so many good teams in it. Looking at the list of teams in the Flortheast and PatrickPlus, there are now 10 teams that finished at least tied for 15th in the league. To be fair, Toronto’s going to regress extremely hard and not come close to a playoff spot this time around, but could be balanced out by the Flyers, who almost physically can’t be worse than they were last year. I’m not sure this represents any sort of shift in the power structure overall, because what seem to be the league’s truly heavy hitters still reside primarily in the West, but the overall quality of the conferences certainly seem to have shifted.

That, though, means that more good to slightly-above-average teams are now in the East, and that there might be at least one genuinely no-good — we’re talking “Capitals-last-year” bad — team that sneaks into the playoffs out West.

It is, I suppose, the same point of concern that arose before: Division winners getting home ice regardless of how few points they had, and therefore theoretically robbing a spot from a team that actually deserves it (which happened to the 103-point Flyers two seasons ago when 94-point Florida was seeded third). Only now, it can happen twice! In each conference!

Instead of guaranteeing division winners, and only division winners, a playoff spot, but otherwise seeding them as their point total dictated, they’ve unnecessarily complicated something that was already fundamentally broken.

Ah, but that’s the way the NHL works, isn’t it? Take an easily-fixable problem and making it worse.

Comments (45)

  1. Here come the Toronto fans. Wait for it…..

  2. I understand that it has to be made to seem complicated for the article to work, but it’s an awful reach to actually think its confusing. Top 3 teams n each division make the playoffs, then the next two best teams in the conference. It’s actually similar to the old way were the top team in each division make the playoffs then the next five best teams in the conference.

    I understand complaining about the uneven # of teams in each conference, but playing the confusing angle just seems to be pointless and used to fill the article.

    • Right but the thing is that the “No. 7″ team in the conference could very easily have more points than, say, the No. 3 or even No. 2 team in a division, which would be seeded ahead of them and thus against an easier team to beat. It’s rewarding teams for being in mediocre-at-best divisions and is absurdly complicated.

      • No, it’s emphasizing divisional play, which was the whole point.

        You overcomplicated it for your own purposes. The top four teams in a division make the playoffs, unless the fifth place team in one division has more points than the fourth-place team in the other division. In that case, 5 replaces 4 and we move on.

        THAT’S ALL IT IS.

        • Except that that’s not all it is because the second and third teams in each division play each other while the first and fourth do not necessarily, based on where they finished in the standings. Consequently, you could theoretically have the second and third seeds in the West be from the same division and play each other.

        • But it’s NOT emphasising divisional play fully…

          …only the top 3 from each division are a lock, with the final 2 spots being “wildcards”. Problem is the “wildcards” may have more points that one or more of the teams with locked playoff spots, so there will likely be crossover play between divisions during the early playoff rounds.

          The league needs to expand to 16 teams East AND West, top 4 from each division make playoffs. Divisional matchups to determine divisional champions. Reseed the 4 divisional playoff winners based on regular season point totals for the Stanley Cup tournament.

          No more eastern conference vs. western conference. Blackhawks could play Vancouver for the cup. Rangers could play Boston. Flyers could play Detroit.

          That’s my hope anyhow.

          Hopefully this is the result in a few years.

      • I know my grade 6 algebra education is a bit rusty but I actually find the system pretty straightforward. Then again, I do have more than a jello shot-pickled, half-brain so there’s that.

      • Also: the old system had the quirk of the winner of the Southeast getting the #3 seed undeservingly, so it’s not as though this system is any less equitable. Judging by the old divisional alignment the last time this system ran, it’d be rare for your scenario of the #3 team in one division being worse than the majority of teams in the other division.

        • I checked to see what playoff seed the Southeast division finished over the last ten years, back to 2003. The SE was #3 seed five times, #2 seed twice, and the #1 seed three times. (If you just consider the last five years, it was #3 seed twice, #1 seed twice, and #2 seed once.) 2 Cup wins, from TB and Carolina.

          In contrast, you have the Northwest winning the #3 seed in the west a whopping eight times, with two #1 seeds, over the last ten years.

          But yeah, let’s keep banging that drum that the SE is the only weak division that ever had a team profit from lesser competition. It’s a classic, right up there with the whole “enigmatic European” thing.

          • “I checked to see what playoff seed the Southeast division finished over the last ten years, back to 2003. The SE was #3 seed five times, #2 seed twice, and the #1 seed three times. (If you just consider the last five years, it was #3 seed twice, #1 seed twice, and #2 seed once.) 2 Cup wins, from TB and Carolina.”

            That’s not the point. The point is what happens in, say, the 2008 season, when Washington would have been tied for 8th, but got the third seed. Atlanta should have been 5th the prior year, and was seeded 3 (of course, they quite justifiably got swept anyway) Or Florida in 2012.

            Oh, and if you think no one noticed your sample size trickery, we did.
            2002-03 – Tampa gets #3 seed, should have qualified 6th.
            2001-02 – Carolina gets 3 seed, should have qualified 8th
            2000-01 – Washington gets 3 seed, should have qualified 6th.

            Yes, the Northeast has some crappy teams, but the division winner (Vancouver) has usually justified their home ice advantage – I don’t think there’s been a year where their actual rank was lower than 4. Southeast teams FREQUENTLY got an unfair home-ice advantage simply by winning an awful division.


      • Yes, it could potentially reward a team that finished lower. No, it is not complicated. This is yet another case of Ryan Lambert either feigning outrage or demonstrating stupidity, I can never figure out which.

      • Again, I don’t disagree that it may lead to unfair matchups (although I prefer the divisional matchups for rivalry purposes), my main point was that it’s not complicated at all. It’s still a simple bracket playoff.

        I think the article should have been about the lack of fairness, not the supposed complication.

      • Great point there.For example the Red Wings look most likely to be the 1st Wild Card team and would be a 7th seed.But,the funny thing here is they could end up with more points than the 2nd and 3rd place team in the Metropolitan Division,where they would move to for the playoffs,but still have to be the 4th place team?This doesn’t make any sense.Again,I’m not saying that the Rangers and Flyers are going to lose out,but it could happen and why should they get the 2nd and 3rd seed if they do lose out and the Red Wings win out..They would have more points,and at least more wins than the Flyers.I think they seriously should just change it to the 2 division winners,and then the next best 6 teams and then just do it the old way by 1 plays8,2 plays 7,3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5.Then reseed with the highest seed always getting the lowest seed.

  3. “After the first round of the playoffs, each team advances without being re-seeded…”

    Was this confirmed? I know Lozo was trying to find out a few days ago.

  4. -934798N4 09 )*&%^%$^%*&^ ^%#@)_^%(*%$*#)%) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Maybe I’m reading to much into this, but isn’t this the way it works in most professional sports that have a wild card? The NFL a few years ago had a team that finished nearly under .500 that won it’s division and got a home game in the playoffs. The same often happens in baseball.

    I’m not saying reseeding shouldn’t happen, just that, this is the way “wildcards” seem to have been defined in the past in many sports. Of course, I live in Dallas and most of us wouldn’t know hockey if we got hit in the face with a puck.

    • It was the Seahawks, and they actually did finish 7-9 to win the NFC West… and then promptly won the home playoff game.

      That team was actually terrible: outscored by a touchdown per game, sixth-worst in turnover margin, bottom-ten in points for and points allowed, bottom-five in yardage and passing efficiency, second-to-last in rushing; opponents threw 31 TDs and only 12 picks against their defense, which was also 12th worst in rushing against… how they won even five games, much less seven plus a playoff contest, is a mystery on a par with translating Etruscan and the musical career of Ke$ha.

  6. We lived with it being harder to make the playoffs in the Patrick (and briefly the Smythe after the Sharks joined) for a decade without anyone complaining. I don’t see how things are any different under this new format, which if anything is more equitable because of the crossover.

    And I’m fairly sure there were at least a couple of years during the Nashville / Minnesota / Columbus / Atlanta expansion period when the conferences were unbalanced, as well – or, at the very least, it was easier to win certain divisions than others due to some having four teams and others five.

  7. doesn’t this take away from the beauty of a #4 seed beating a #1 seed? unless i’m missing something only the best advance to the finals, for the most part.

    • As discussed below, the “best” advancing to the finals doesn’t necessarily happen – or, at least, there is the potential for every team in a division to be colossally screwed up at the same time and basically grant the other division winner a walkover that wouldn’t have happened.

      Of course, under the current system, if the #1 and #2 teams in a conference are in the same division, and then all four home-ice teams win their first round series, they meet in the second round and not the conference finals anyway (I think this happened at least once). So you get screwy results no matter what happens.

    • hang on – what I should have said is, a #1 seed losing in the first round to the lowest seed. that can’t happen now

      • *shrug* It’s not as though upsets in the 1-4 playoffs weren’t as dramatic. Case in point: the Miracle on Manchester. Lesser examples: the Leafs’ consecutive upsets in the mid-80s, the Devils’ famous run in 88, and the Kings dumping the defending Cup champs in 1990.

      • On the contrary, the #8 seed has upset the #1 seed 12 times in 19 seasons (38 possible times, one for each division). The 2006 Oilers made the Finals; the 2012 Kings won the Cup – beating not only the #1 seed (Vancouver), but also the #2 and #3 in the West. Additionally, 14 times the #7 seed has advanced at least one round, with three of those making the Cup Finals (’99 Sabres, ’03 Ducks, ’10 Flyers).

        The 2010 Eastern Conference finals were a #7/#8 matchup. In 2006 all four lower seeds in the West won their first round matchup. Three of the four 7/8 seeds have advanced in the same season three separate times.

        You’re right in thinking it doesn’t happen as often lately, with only five bottom-two teams in the past seven years advancing, and no bottom-two upsets in four of the seven years. But it’s not unheard of.

  8. Isn’t it just the exact same as the MLB’s old playoff system?

    The obvious difference is the Top 3 in each division are awarded a playoff spot instead of simply the 1st place team, and there are two wildcard spots instead of one (just like the MLB has now), but I don’t think it’s THAT confusing.

    Having said that, is it more complicated than “The top four teams from each division make the playoffs”? Yes, absolutely.

  9. …One could easily witness a scenario in which the Western Conference “wildcard team” has substantially fewer wins (and points) than 2 or 3 Eastern Conference teams that completely miss the playoffs.

    You can bet the ownership groups (whose organizations get screwed out of such windfall, post-season revenues) as well as their respective fan-bases, will be screaming bloody murder, should such a situation arise.

    • In 06-07 Colorado missed the playoffs but would have been the 6 seed in the east, so it’s no different from the previous format in that regard.

  10. Okay, so, breaking this down year-by-year:

    81-82 – No crossover (I’d forgotten that the NORRIS was the six-team division for a bit there). No real inequities that I can see.

    82-83 – Crossover, as the Kings would’ve edged the Blues by a point. But no real statistical quirks result from that, as they would’ve been the #4 seed in the Norris anyway.

    83-84 – *blinks, looks at standings a second time* Remind me again why the Devils and Pens weren’t kicked out of the league for tanking for Mario? Anyway, no crossovers (shockingly, given the rampant tanking), but I can see the Canucks being annoyed at being the first of what I assume will be a number of Smythe teams that would have had home ice in the Norris.

    84-85 – Crossover, Hartford replaces the Rangers. This is the “HOLY GOD THE NORRIS WAS AWFUL!” years, as the Kings would’ve been better than everyone save the Blues… who got swept by the freaking North Stars.

    85-86 – Sabres would’ve bumped the Rangers, but the entire system, shockingly, was equitable, even in the Campbell.

    86-87 – I don’t have the tiebreaker information, but there could potentially be a pair of crossovers here as a bunch of teams tied. This is the prototypical “awful Norris” season as no one finished above 0.500… but, ironically, the crossover would bump a team from the SMYTHE, as the North Stars might have finished ahead of LA.

    87-88 – Rangers finally bump someone else out, in this case Hartford. Canucks bump the Leafs. Both teams would be seeded appropriately in the other division.

    88-89 – No changes at all.

    89-90 – No changes.

    90-91 – Philly bumps the Whale, seeded appropriately.

    91-92 – This one’s historically screwed up and would be your biggest argument against divisional play. Campbell’s easier to deal with: Flames bump the Stars. As for the Wales… man, I don’t even know where to start. Both the Pens and the Devils would’ve had home ice in the Adams. The Islanders would’ve been third in that division.

    So, out of the ten seasons surveyed, two would have had inequitable results. One was due to, well, the Norris being the worst division in the history of professional sports, which I don’t think we’re likely to see again. The 91-92 Adams case is the situation we’re more likely to see repeated: even the Nords didn’t finish last overall because the Sharks had spawned from the Stars.

    • Whoops, forgot that we had one season of perfectly balanced play under the old format after Tampa and Ottawa joined:

      92-93: Um… nevermind. No crossovers, no real inequities. Is there any wonder why this is considered the best season ever played? And I say this as a man whose team lost the finals because of an illegal stick.

      • yer team only made the finals because of a blind referee, and because the penguins underestimated the islanders.. and they lost in the finals because of patrick roy

        • A blind referee? Really? I seem to recall the other team having home ice in game 7 and losing…

          And I don’t know how the Pens choking made it easier for the Kings to make the finals, but maybe the voices in your head can tell you that.

  11. Well, let’s take a second after we’ve all attacked Lambert for calling this too confusing. I think it’s a valid issue for the NHL: changing the playoff format so drastically and making it not a perfect science and not 100% straight-forward won’t do the league many favors. Existing (such as those of you posting here) probably won’t find an issue with it. However, I think Lambert makes his stance clear here: many sports fans won’t take the time to figure this out and when a team does end up getting shafted, ignorant fans will be blindsided and outraged. It’s the same thing over and over again with this league. Hopefully they don’t set this playoff system in stone. They will need to tweak it a little bit.

    But I would agree it’s not terribly confusing for anyone who takes 5 minutes to think it through. Yet, most people won’t take those 5 minutes, and I presume that’s the author’s point here.

    • “making it not a perfect science and not 100% straight-forward won’t do the league many favors.”

      Right, because the NFL, which uses a pretty similar setup for rewarding wild cards, has seen people set themselves on fire in protest.

  12. You for from guaranteeing 3 playoff spots/conference to SIX! That’s way too much, especially when this doesnt even come close to eliminating the possibility of a “Southeast”-esque weak division. It can still happen.

    It should’ve been the division winners/runner-ups who are guaranteed playoff spots; and then the next four best teams (regardless of division) that get the final 4 spots. By doing this, it gives the most chances of not letting bad teams into the playoffs and it gives a plausible reason to base home advantage off of.

  13. I’d probably take longer legs over a low centre of gravity. I draft Chara and Hal Gill

    • Ideally the leg length would be identical but I agree – longer legs mean fewer paces which would own

  14. Why do we even need divisions & conferences? 30 teams, top 16 in, seeding by points. Is it really that hard? If you are worried about travel, keep the schedule unbalanced. Plus you have the added benefit of a shot that two hated rivals could actually face off for the cup rather than two teams that barely know each other. I totally get what Lambert is saying. Why change up the playoffs without actually improving the process?

  15. One thing needed is to go to a 3 (or 5) point per game system.

    Each game must generate the same gross total of points into the standings – 3 (if you want to make the OT = SO value judgement) or 5 (if you pick the winning in OT > SO value judgement).

  16. I’ll lose it if a team that finished SIXTH in its division doesn’t make the playoffs!!!! Thank God none of you remember the 80′s and the Chuck Norris division.

  17. This article, along with all of Lambert’s posts, is baffling, awful and not the slightest bit interesting.

  18. I like this new format and feel it’s better than the previous one.
    Ryan, you point out how unfair it could be if Team#3 has less points than a wildcard team (which is very possible).
    But that’s precisely what seemed to happen on a yearly basis with the SouthEast divsion.
    How many times did we see the winner from that division get a #3 seed despite having less points than almost all the other teams in the playoffs?

    At least with this system, there’s no more reseeding after each round. We know who will play who regardless.
    It’s closer to how things were back in the 4-division days.
    You play out of your division (even if one team may not be from that division).
    It will help create rivalries and I do believe it’ll be less confusing than the previous system.
    It was harder explaining to non-fans how TeamA might have 3 different dance partners depending on what TeamB, TeamC or TeamE did.

  19. Well as a very new fan of the NHL (I started watching this week) from Australia I’m currently trying to read as much as I can to learn about this sport and get my head around the way things are done as well as all the different names things are called.

    I read about the new play offs system on another website and I think it is completely simply to understand. No confusion at all. Please correct me if I’m wrong but its just the top three teams in each division goes through to the play offs and then the next two teams with the most points go in as wild cards. That does seem pretty simple.

    However I can see and understand how this could be unfair as someone who comes 6th or 7th in one division could have more points then say 1st or 2nd of the other division and they could miss out completely. That does seem kinda stupid.

    Why not just take the top eight teams from each conference based on points into the playoffs. I don’t know that much about the NHL yet but to me that just seems like the most logical way of doing things. Theres a lot of talk about conferencing the National Rugby League here in Australia and thats the way that they’re looking at doing it here.

    It just seems more fair to me as teams that do the best all season will be rewarded for their preformances rather than a mediocre team getting through due to them being in a lesser quality division.

  20. Folks,

    This really has me incensed…

    I’m a fairly insightful person, I like to think. I took a class in statistics and made an A in college. I’m good with numbers.

    I don’t think I’m wrong on this.

    I just double checked the playoff format with the league/division re-alignment for 2014 on, and it confirms my initial suspicion – the system is fundamentally flawed, as it’s fundamentally (and significantly) UNFAIR to all eastern conference teams!

    Lookit, before the Eastern and Western Conferences had 15 teams each.

    Now, there are 14 in the West and 16 in the East.

    Now the new system is this: the top 12 teams (top 3 from each of the 4 conferences) make the playoffs – so far, so good….

    But, the problem is that they kinda-sorta started to attempt to address the unfairness with the process for selecting the remaining four “wildcard” teams, but then did it the wrong way, so it’s still unfair, as follows:

    The four wildcard teams which make the playoffs are the *Top Two in Each Conference* (regardless of division), which makes sense from a conference standpoint but not a league standpoint. The remaining two wildcards from the East or West could be from the same division, so that if one division is really good, that division may send 5 to the playoffs that year, and the other division in the conference just 3. (i.e. a good division might send two wildcards and the other division no wildcards). That’s all well and good, but it still fucks over several teams in the East every year, because regardless of whether one conference is much better overall than the other or not, each conference still always gets to send two wildcards, even if that conference is horrible. That would be fine if there were an even number of teams (15 in each conference), but it’s clearly not fine when it’s skewed 14/16 in favor of the West (fewer teams in the West).

    So no matter what else happens; no matter how you slice it, the West will always send 8 teams to the playoffs, and the East will always send 8 teams to the playoffs. In other words, the West will always send 57% of its teams to the playoffs, and the East will always send exactly 50% of it’s teams to the playoffs. How is that fair? The odds are just always greater that a Western team can get in than an Eastern team, no matter how you slice it. At the beginning of the season, every team in the West has a 57% chance of making the playoffs, and every team in the East has a 50% chance of making the playoffs. The East is hampered from the get-go.

    This kinda makes sense right NOW, when the West happens to be much better than the East, but what about 5 or 10 years from now – what if the East is much better than the West? Then you can have a wildcard Western team making the playoffs with a sub-.500 record, yet have an Eastern team shut out of the playoffs with a supra-.600 record. It will become blatantly obvious how unfair that is if/when that happens.

    They should have done one of two things instead — either:

    (1) Kept Detroit in the Western conference, so that it would still be 15/15 balance. Yeah, then one division has 8 and one division has 7 in each conference but so what? They could work that out schedule-wise easily, and the wild-card system *currently* in place is perfect for “leveling out” that oddity. Plus, Detroit has more money than any other team out there, so they could easily afford the travel costs to the Western cities. And the other Western teams still have to fly to Chicago… is it really any more expensive for Phoenix to fly to Detroit than it is for Phoenix to fly to Chicago? I doubt it.


    (2) Keep the current 16/14 split, but simply change the wildcard choices from *Top Two Teams in Each Conference after the initial six (without regard to Divsion)*, to *Top Four Teams in the entire LEAGUE (without regard to Conference or Division)* !! That would be perfect and imminently fair and would give the league what they want with respect to renewing Eastern conf. rivalries with Detroit.

    Of those two, the 2nd choice is probably the best one…. Why oh why didn’t they do this? They are just incredibly stupid, unless I’m missing something, but I don’t think I am.

    This is madness… How are the bubble Eastern teams not revolting here? Ugh.


    PS. They could even have done something like this – a third “hybrid” option: (2) Keeping the current 16/14 split, and starting with the same starting point that the top 3 from each division are in (12), plus 4 wildcards. BUT, instead of simply selecting the wildcards as the *Top Four in the League* (without regard to division or conference, they could select the wildcards like this: The first two of four wildcard teams are the top ONE in each conference, regardless of division; the the next/last two are the *Top Two in entire League Which are not already in via the first twelve or first two wildcards*. Then you have an assurance that each Conference gets to send at least 7 (rather than the possibility of say, 6 from the East and 10 from the West in a crazy scenario when on conference dominates), but those last two spots are up for grabs for anyone who fights tooth and nail for every point throughout the system to grab those 15th and 16th spots, and if one conference sends 7 and one conference sends 9 under than structure, then fine and dandy – what’s wrong with that? I’m not sure which I like best between #2 and #3 here, but this #3 system would be the most likely to be adopted, because it’s the closest to what they actually did, yet it’s still quite fair – it’s perfectly fair, because you only need the possibility of ONE more team from the East to even out that 57% / 50% unfairness built into the current system. (In the old, fair system, each team had a 53.3% chance of making the playoffs, regardless of conference).

    In my opinion and all that. Spread the word if you agree.

    • *Last paragraph should say option # “(3)” , not “(2)”.

    • I like your option 2 with one control factor: The top wildcard will play in their division first, The second best wildcard will play in the their division, if available, or if not then in their conference. The third wildcard will play in their division first, conference (other division), second then to 2nd highest seed in other conference. Every effort should be made to keep a divisional playoff. If not then the 2nd and 3rd place teams will have a gripe as both may have records better than the 2nd and 3rd place teams in other divisions. That equates to seeding by conference #3 vs #4 while #5 plays #6 – not fair for #3 or #4, but it could happen. The NHL has played high seed vs low seed in the 3 division format. They are trying to go back to the divisional playoff format of the 80s and early 90s but because of uneven divisions the NHLPA voted it out. They agreed once the crossover was instituted, but I think they did it in a way that might possibly be unfair. It would be bad for the sport if a #3 divisional team tanks games so they can end up #4 so they can play the #1 of the other (weaker) division.

  21. I think the confusing thing is this: 4 teams are seeded based on division standings, while 4 teams are seeded based on conference standings. If the two wild cards were in different divisions, then having them play their division first place team in the first round would emphasize the rivalry aspect of the playoffs. Instead it’s possible for Pacific #1 to play Central #4 in the Pacific Division playoffs and have Central #1 play Pacific #4 in the Central Division playoffs. If these wild cards each pull off two upsets, then you’d have Pacific #4 winning the Central division playoffs and Central #4 winning the Pacific Division playoffs, then play each other in the Western Final. This would be interesting if they gave trophies for winning the divisional playoff (after two rounds). It would probably make it easier to understand if the NHL made the format like this: if the 8 teams advancing yield 4 from each division, then they don’t crossover and the first two rounds are played entirely within the division – 1vs4; 2vs3

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