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Should the NHL change its postseason seeding system?

Mar 29, 2012, 8:45 AM EDT

Ryan Miller AP

In the Eastern Conference, you could make a fair argument that having the seventh or sixth seed is preferable to the fifth seed because the eventual Northeast and Southeast Division winners will almost certainly have an inferior record to the fourth seed team. In the Western Conference, the sixth seed Chicago Blackhawks might be better off taking on the third seed Pacific Division winner than grabbing the fifth seed and being forced to play against Nashville or Detroit.

It raises the question: Does the current seeding format need tweaking?

“I hope they do evaluate it because it’s antiquated,” Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said.

The idea behind the current system, where each division winner is guaranteed a top-three position, is to encourage rivalries and also cater to the league’s unbalanced schedule. The flipside is the third seed team can be inferior to the fourth seed, or worse. In 2007-08, the Washington Capitals won the Southeast Division with 94 points, which is also what the eighth place Boston Bruins got.

“I think it’s easy to pick apart the system this year because we have four teams in the division this year that are doing really well,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “There’s a reason why that rule’s in place. I mean yeah, it’s been talked about this year where maybe the division winner automatically makes the playoffs but you seed them where they’d be seeded, so Florida would be eighth or seventh, same with Boston.”

A system like that might be fairer, but by reducing the importance of winning the division, you risk taking away some of the drama associated with the final days of the regular season. The Detroit Red Wings stand to lose in the current system, but Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke out in support of the current system.

“If you’re going to have divisions, you have to reward the division winners with something and right now that’s a top-three seed,” Holland said. “We all play different schedules. Some might have five good teams in their division, some three. But at the end of the day, there’s so much parity in the league.”

Of course, if the system does need tweaking, now is the time to do it. The current CBA is set to expire before the start of the 2012-13 campaign and they need to realign anyways so that the Winnipeg Jets are moved out of the Southeast Division. The NHL already tried to go with their four conference system, but the NHLPA ultimately rejected it.

  1. buffalomafia - Mar 29, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    There should be two conferences!

    Top eight make playoffs!

    Then #1 plays #16 like they did back in the 70’s!

  2. kbmorgan1 - Mar 29, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    It would be nice to see a crossover system to allow more Western teams more games. The bottom Eastern teams aren’t nearly as strong as the ones in the West. Sadly that wouldn’t work for Gary Buttman and his gang of Eastern GMs…

  3. spydey629 - Mar 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    As much as I hate the NBA, I think they tweak they added a few years ago is the way to go. They had the same problem. The solution they went with was to keep the first round the same, but record determined home court in all other rounds.

    I think that makes the most sense. Reward teams for winning their division for one round, but point total determines home ice from the 2nd Round on. The NHL already re-seeds anyway, you’d just be changing the existing rule.

    And for the record, I like the current three-division set-up, and think it should be maintained (Just realigned). I just see too many 5th (and 6th?) place teams in divisions not making the playoffs over the Top 4 of teams in weaker divisions with worse records.

    The Top in a Conference means that the best teams get in, short of a 9th team kept out by a weak sister division winner. 3 seeds have been bad, but worse that the 9th place team has been rare.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Mar 29, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      Well, the NHL has followed the NBA’s lead in most other areas, why not this too?

    • bmscalise - Mar 29, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      Think about how much worse this situation would become if they institute the division format for playoffs, as was proposed with realignment.

      Not only would the same teams play every darn year – but the SE (minus Washington) would be combined with the NE – while the substantially better teams in the expanded Atlantic have to beat the crap out of each other to make it past the 2nd round. And I don’t want to hear anything about how it will change from year to year: the SE always stinks and will never have money, while the Atlantic teams have foundations to remain good teams.

    • tcclark - Mar 29, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      actually the NBA tweaked the first round. The division winners are guaranteed a top 4 seed leaving a spot open for a team that has a better record than the other division winners. So the east this year would be:


      I’b be happy with that

      • danphipps01 - Mar 29, 2012 at 2:23 PM

        Huh. Yeah, that’s actually quite clever. Simple, small, easy to adopt, but effective. I like.

  4. buffalomafia - Mar 29, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    What about what the fans want?

    Top 16 teams like I said earlier #1 plays #16!

    Screw the NBA!

    • spydey629 - Mar 29, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      Ummm… no fans want that. One thing for Florida and Vancouver to have to go back and forth in the Stanley Cup Finals, but New York to LA, San Jose to Philadelphia, Colorado to Boston just for the first round is just plain nuts.

      (Yes, all hypothetical, but it could happen)

      No to mention that CBC, TSN, and NBC would never go for it, either.

  5. Stiller43 - Mar 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    I like the nfl where the division winner gets a home playoff game, but since the nhl has best of 7 series, the lower seed will still get home games in the playoffs…

    I like guaranteed playoff spots for division winner, but open seeding 1-8 based on points. Were gonna have 3 teams in the atlantic over 100 points. No reason they shouldnt be seeded top 3 if they have the most points in the east.

  6. sippindasyzurp - Mar 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    If there is any change I would want to first implemented it is rewarding 3 points for a regulation win… And the losing team if it goes past regulation only gets a 1 point if they lose in a shootout not overtime as well… The winning team in overtime or shootout still gets 2 points..

    I don’t know what the standings would look like this year if this was the case but I just think we should reward teams and place a premium for winning in regulation..

    I know this is not even talked about but feel free to chime in with your opinion if you agree or disagree with this.


  7. pmac26 - Mar 29, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Something has to be done! Currently The Penguins sit 4th in the East with 100 points while #2 Boston has 93 points and #3 Florida has 89 points

    Same situation in the West where #4 Detroit has 97 points and #3 Dallas has 89 points, #5 Nashville & #6 Chicago also have more points than Dallas.

    Winning a weak division should not give you one of the top 3 spots in the conference!

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 29, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      3-2-1 point system and a guaranteed Top 4 instead of a Top 3 seeding would both be relatively quick and painless fixes.

      …Which means it will take four years to get done.

      …And even then Donald Fehr will probably get the players to protest it.

  8. bcisleman - Mar 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Realignment is coming. The NHLPA only delayed it. Can’t see the NHL doing any tweaking that will likely only last a year or two.

  9. greatminnesotasportsmind - Mar 29, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    They had the post season right… Then the NHLPA had to mess up the realignment.

  10. buffalomafia - Mar 29, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    After reading the last post its all about making money?

  11. greatminnesotasportsmind - Mar 29, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Under the realignment the NHL proposed, the playoff picture would look like this. (hint: it’s better)

    Conference A
    St. Louis 105 points
    Detroit 97 points
    Nashville 96 points
    Chicago 93 points
    Dallas 89 points
    Winnipeg 78 points
    Minnesota 72 points
    Columbus 57 points

    Detroit and Nashville is still playing for home ice advantage against each other in the first round. Dallas is only 4 points back of Chicago, with both teams having 5 games going into tonight. One bad week by Chicago and Dallas sneaks in.

    Conference B
    Vancouver 103 points
    San Jose 88 points
    Los Angeles 88 points
    Phoenix 87 points
    Colorado 86 points
    Calgary 85 points
    Anaheim 77 points
    Edmonton 71 points

    This is exactly why the NHL needs this realignment. 3 points separate home ice advantage in the first round to being out of the playoffs. 5 teams 3 spots.

    Conference C
    Boston 93 points
    Florida 89 points
    Ottawa 88 points
    Buffalo 86 points
    Tampa Bay 77 points
    Toronto 75 points
    Montreal 72 points

    So the 4 teams would have clinched a playoff spot. But Florida is trying to chase Boston down for home ice in the first 2 rounds. Ottawa and Buffalo are trying to chase Florida down for home ice in the first round.

    NY Rangers 105 points
    Pittsburgh 100 points
    Philadelphia 96 points
    New Jersey 92 points
    Washington 84 points
    Carolina 77 points
    NY islanders 75 points

    These 4 teams are probably the best in this division. Seriously, if you have to fire your coach (Washington) in the middle of the season either your just not that good or you don’t deserve to be in.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Mar 29, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      First round has 2 inter state rivalries (sharks/kings and pens/flyers).

      Old time hockey with

      Thanks NHLPA

    • bmscalise - Mar 29, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      I don’t know how you think this is better. Only 1 or maybe 2 teams in conference B and C even belong in the post season. And more importantly, 2 of Pit, Phil, NJ and NYR would be gone after the first round. Every one of those teams, as you say, is at least arguably all of Conf. C. At least in the current format, a better team in 6 like NJ can get rid of a crap team like FL in the first round. I could make the same argument about Conf. A and B. And it would happen every year like this. It takes problems with the current format and exacerbates it. It stinks.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Mar 29, 2012 at 7:47 PM

        In Conference C as of right now, all four 4 would still be in the playoffs in today’s crap format.

        You don’t think Pittsburgh/Philadelphia and Rangers/New Jersey would be a heck of a matchup? Even the winners of those games would meet in the semi finals. Pittsburgh/Rangers and Pittsburgh/Devils would be great as would Flyers/Rangers Flyers/Devils.

        Becareful what you wish for. There has been “crap” 6 seeds like Minnesota/Anaheim in 2002-03, Tampa last year, Edmonton as an 8 seed all either go to the conference finals or stanley cup finals.

        Right now, there is only a battle for the 7, 8, and out of the playoffs. During the new proposal, there are 3 teams in Conference C still playing meaningful games. You can argue right now seeds 1-6 are pretty much how they will be. Even if a team goes 3-2 over there last 5 games, the other team needs to go 5-0 just to tie. I think a team trying to play for home ice in the first round (maybe second if a 4 seed beats 1) still gives meaningful games.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Mar 29, 2012 at 7:54 PM

        Maybe your too young to remember how good these rivalries were during the playoffs
        Blackhawks/North Stars
        Blues/Red Wings
        Blackhawks/Red Wings


        you get a chance to meet these teams every year. Playoffs develop rivalries. Playing your own division every year in the playoffs and then seeing them again the following year is going to make for great hockey.

        Look at how good the Avalanche/Red Wings were during the mid to late 90s. The reason: they met in the playoffs every year.

        In the 90s Red Wings/Blues were a great rivalry. These teams hated each other to the point both penalty boxes were full… during the playoffs.

        The only time the Wild make a deep playoff run, they had a great rivalry with Vancouver for a few years after. That was because of the playoffs. Now it isn’t crap, mainly because the Wild are crap now.

  12. cbjfan75 - Mar 30, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Love the comment above about firing coach mid season and not deserving to go to playoffs. Funny, but isn’t that EXACTLY what the Pens done the year they won the Cup?

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