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Report: Proposed playoff system has four wildcard teams

Feb 26, 2013, 12:29 PM EDT

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game Six Getty Images

In an attempt to address the issue of fairness, the NHL has proposed a new playoff system for next season’s realigned league.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

—- The top three teams in the two eight-team “Eastern” conferences would make the playoffs, with two wildcard teams from the remaining 10 teams qualifying as well.

—- The top three teams in the two seven-team “Western” conferences would make the playoffs, with two wildcard teams from the remaining eight teams qualifying as well.

Neither the NHLPA or the Board of Governors has signed off on the proposal, and whether the proposed system adequately addresses the fairness issue is debatable. After all, there will still be fewer teams for those in the seven-team conferences to beat out for a postseason spot.

Proposed realignment:

“Eastern Side”

Conference 1

Carolina
Columbus
New Jersey
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Washington

Conference 2

Boston
Buffalo
Detroit
Florida
Montreal
Ottawa
Tampa Bay
Toronto

“Western Side”

Conference 3

Chicago
Colorado
Dallas
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg

Conference 4

Anaheim
Calgary
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver

  1. jobotjones - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Man conference 2 is WEAK.

    • rarelyshaves - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      what??

      boston just won a cup and is looking like a contender this year
      buffalo has (had?) the leagues top scorer thus far and an Olympic goalie, and has great forechecking
      ottawa is grinding out wins right now like a true veteran team
      Detroit, no matter you think, is a contender every season and looks like they make a run down the stretch again
      motreal is one the top ~4 teams in the league right now and are playing explosively
      tampa bay isn’t that far removed from a cup either and has some
      fast of the fastest players on the ice
      florida…has nice weather…
      and Toronto – looks like last year except they might actually follow through

      I think the bigger issue is that there’s uneven math for the conferences. always makes things awkward.

      • miketoasty - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM

        As a Pens fan I really think he is being sarcastic. That is probably the strongest conference out of the four. Or at least tied for that crown.

      • sjsharks86 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        The only thing I can think as to why they’re going with this system is if they’re planning on expanding in the West, evening it out to 8 teams per conference.

    • sjsharks86 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Boston, Tampa Bay & Detroit traditionally aren’t weak, Montreal & Ottawa are looking good this season (1 & 4 in the east right now) & Florida made the playoffs last year. Buffalo & Toronto suck now, but who knows how they’ll look in the future (The Leafs will probably still suck).

  2. danaking - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    I guess this is better then just the first four in each conference, but they still can’t keep the playoffs within a conference for more than a round; too much chance of too many good teams meeting too early, diminishing the chances of the best teams meeting in later rounds.

    What I don’t understand is, why mess with this at all? Is it solely to save travel costs? If so, will this alignment do it? Looking at schedules some years, it seems many of the travel concerns could be managed by better scheduling, which would allow them to leave a well-functioning alignment and playoff system alone.

  3. quizguy66 - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    I get the feeling the NHL isn’t really against good teams meeting too early. They’d just as soon have those big rivalry matchups happen more often no matter when it does.

    -QG

  4. howintensive - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Move either Columbus or Detroit back to the west. Then it would be most fair.

    • sjsharks86 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      That would defeat the entire purpose of realignment, which was to reduce travel time for teams (esp. those 2), except for the Florida teams which kinda get screwed.

      • tmoore4075 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        The FLA teams do however get Detroit, Toronto, Boston, Montreal going into their building 2-3 times a year which they don’t currently. Detroit fans pack those two places when they do there.

      • sunking1 - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        tmoore… Tampa does not “get packed” with Detroit fans when the Wings are in town. While there will always be some opposing fans in the building (because virtually everyone who lives here is from someplace up north) Tampa fills the building regardless of who the opponent is.

      • tmoore4075 - Feb 26, 2013 at 3:41 PM

        Doesn’t get packed? Really?

      • clefty1 - Feb 26, 2013 at 3:55 PM

        Of the Wings games I have seen on tv in Tampa, the place is probably almost half Wings fans when they come to town and there are plenty that show up in Miami as well.

  5. tmoore4075 - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Now we’re just getting confusing with this. So lets say just for ease, on the Eastern side up there that’s the order they were in the standings. So Canes, Jackets, Devils, Bruins, Sabres and Wings are all in. The Isles, Rangers, Panthers and Habs would then be seeded 1-4 based on record? Then the two winners get placed into the playoffs as the 4 spot in either division?

    • kopy - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:33 PM

      Yes.

      I believe the intention is that if say the Islanders (look like a 4 seed) had a weak record, and Montreal and Florida BOTH had better records than the Islanders, Montreal and Florida would make the playoffs. What I don’t know is how they would decide which one would go over into the Islanders’ conference to take their spot.

  6. jrod691 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    I’m not sure if it addresses the fairnesa issue but I like the fact that only 10 teams make the playoffs each year.

    I think it will make the regular season much more interesting than it is u derived the current system where over half of the league makes the playoffs.

    • dolanster - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Your math is off. 16 teams make it. Read the article again.

      • jrod691 - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:54 PM

        Oops, I did misread that.

  7. quizguy66 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I’m guessing it’ll go like this.

    Playoffs will be within each division.

    If a 5th makes it from a division as the 2nd wildcard, that team will have to play the team with the most points in the conference (get the 4 seed for that division).
    The 1st wildcard will then have to play the other division winner (get the 4 seed for that division).

    If 4 teams make it from each divsion, there is no division switch.

    Example 1 (Just using eastern conference – totals made up)
    Div 1: NJ 110 PITT 105 WSH 102 NYR 98 PHIL 97 CAR 83 NYI 77 CBJ 70
    Div 2: BOS 107 DET 100 MTL 96 TB 90 OTT 85 BUF 77 TOR 70 FLA 67

    Div 1 top 3: NJ, PITT, WASH
    Div 2 top 3: BOS, DET, MTL
    Wildcard 1: NYR
    Wildcard 2: PHIL

    Wildcard 2 (Philly) would have to play the best division winner (NJ)
    Wildcard 1 (NYR) would have to play the 2nd best division winner (BOS) and get moved into that division’s playoffs.

    Playoffs:
    NJ vs PHIL, PIT vs WASH with winners playing each other in Atlantic Division finals
    BOS vs NYR, DET vs MTL with winners playing each other in Central Division finals

    -QG

  8. quizguy66 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Example 2 (again totals made up)
    Div 1: NJ 111 PITT 106 WSH 103 NYR 99 PHIL 87 CAR 83 NYI 77 CBJ 70
    Div 2: BOS 108 DET 101 MTL 97 TB 91 OTT 85 BUF 77 TOR 70 FLA 67

    Since there’s 4 teams from each division would be
    NJ vs NYR, PIT vs WASH, winners playing each other in Atlantic Division finals
    BOS vs TB, DET vs MTL, winners playing each other in Central Division finals.

    Really not that hard to grasp once you get used to it.

    -QG

    • danaking - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      I think you have it nailed as to how they’re planning to work it. What they risk is having some great early series, with a blowout in the finals, after too many of the god teams meet too early in the playoffs.

  9. fahmundamahbalsaq - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    How fooking stupid! The NHL playoffs are perfect and the best of all four major sports. So what’s next, is the all star game gonna determine home ice in the Finals. Get rid of 6-8 teams and every team will be decent and you’ll have more parody. Bettman is an ass clown

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:21 PM

      fah: Parody is comedic imitation. Parity is the state of equality.

  10. lovac2 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Don’t like this. Now instead of fighting against 14 other teams for a playoffspot, teams are only fighting against 6 or 7 teams and by mid January some teams will clinch a playoff spot. It could make second half of the season dull as there could be only 2 or 3 teams in the entire league playing for something.

  11. quizguy66 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    So based on McKenzie tweets, the 2nd scenario of mine posted above isn’t what would happen. Instead, both wildcards would flop division.

    Example 2 Do-over per McKenzie tweets (again totals made up)
    Div 1: NJ 111 PITT 106 WSH 103 NYR 99 PHIL 87 CAR 83 NYI 77 CBJ 70
    Div 2: BOS 108 DET 101 MTL 97 TB 91 OTT 85 BUF 77 TOR 70 FLA 67

    Div 1 top 3: NJ, PITT, WASH
    Div 2 top 3: BOS, DET, MTL
    Wildcard 1: NYR
    Wildcard 2: TB

    Wildcard 2 (TB) would have to play the best division winner (NJ) and get moved into that division’s playoffs.
    Wildcard 1 (NYR) would have to play the 2nd best division winner (BOS) and get moved into that division’s playoffs.

    Playoffs:
    NJ vs TB, PIT vs WASH with winners playing each other in Atlantic Division finals
    BOS vs NYR, DET vs MTL with winners playing each other in Central Division finals

    So there you go.

    -QG

  12. killerpgh - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Unless I’m misunderstanding this I don’t see how this makes any different between the 8 and 7 team conferences. Now 5 teams can make it in each instead of 4. 2 conferences still have an extra team and the same amount make the playoffs from all 4. Now it’s just making more money for the owners by adding an extra playoff round/game (I’m guesing best of 3 series) with the wild card teams that the owners make 100% of the money from. And it increases the amount of playoff teams from 16 to 20. So now 20 of 30 teams will make the playoffs. 2/3 of the league. Are they trying to make the regular season less meaningful?

    • quizguy66 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      the math stays the same. Teams in the eastern conference (8-team divisions) still only have a 50% chance of making the playoffs while the western conference teams (7-team divisions) will have a 57.1% chance.

      The different is that teams in a stacked division, like the Atlantic, which could have, say the top 5 teams in the conference, don’t automatically have one of those 5 teams get screwed.

      -QG

    • killerpgh - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      After reading it again I can say I did misunderstand it….I like it simple the way it is now.

  13. quizguy66 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Last scenario (top division winner and bottom wild card in save division with 4 teams from each division qualifying)

    Scenario 3:
    Div 1: NJ 111 PITT 106 WSH 103 NYR 91 PHIL 87 CAR 83 NYI 77 CBJ 70
    Div 2: BOS 108 DET 101 MTL 97 TB 96 OTT 85 BUF 77 TOR 70 FLA 67

    Div 1 top 3: NJ, PITT, WASH
    Div 2 top 3: BOS, DET, MTL
    Wildcard 1: TB
    Wildcard 2: NYR

    Wildcard 2 (NYR) would have to play the best division winner (NJ) and would stay in that division’s playoffs.
    Wildcard 1 (TB) would have to play the 2nd best division winner (BOS) and would stay in that division’s playoffs.

    Playoffs:
    NJ vs NYR, PIT vs WASH with winners playing each other in Atlantic Division finals
    BOS vs TB, DET vs MTL with winners playing each other in Central Division finals

    -QG

  14. thomaspratt - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    They are missing out. Their wild card system should consist of play in games. So in the example above, instead of naming TB and NYR wild cards at the end of the season, NYR should play PHI , with the winner playing NJ in round 1 and TB should play OTT to see who takes on BOS in round one.

  15. billymccloskey - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    As of now conf 3 is stacked holy eff

  16. broadstbully33 - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    I see a lot of be conf leaders banners for Boston. What a terrible conference.

  17. therealjr - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    This is just completely counter-intuitive to addressing fairness.

    Right now you have a conference seeding, where you play your division 6x and everyone else in conference 4x. Not ideal but fair enough.

    Instead you are going to have a heavily unbalanced schedule; look at the west. You play your own division (which is really what it is) 6x and other division 2x. Then you are going to compare the remaining teams that didn’t finish top 3 for wild card slots?

    This seems less appealing than having conf/divisions with 7 and 8 teams. I mean, crying over having to finish 4th of 8 vs. 4th of 7? I’d rather just see two conferences play balanced schedules and take the top 8.

  18. tmoore4075 - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Go read LeBrun’s article it makes a lot more sense now.

    “The playoff format as detailed in the league memo Tuesday calls for the top three teams in each division to earn postseason berths. The remaining four spots would go to wild cards, the top two records in each conference. That means there’s a possibility five teams make it from one division and only three from another.”

    So if the 4th and 5th seeds in conference 2 are better than the 4th team in conference 1, than the 4th and 5th seeds from conference 2 get in.

  19. drocity - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    I’ve got an idea, we could call these four conferences, “Divisions”. We could give each “Division” a name steeped in Hockey History. I propose “Adams”, “Patrick”, “Norris”, and “Smyth.” We could then call the East Side, the Campbell Conference and the West Side, the Wales Conference.

    That would be awesome!

    • therealjr - Feb 26, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      But I can’t understand that, it’s just too difficult.

  20. myspaceyourface - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    The LAST thing they need to do is EXPAND the league.

    If anything, they should DO AWAY WITH 2 teams.

    It would get rid of debt, improve attendance numbers, and increase quality of teams.

  21. bensawesomeness - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I know people are super against this, anything’s better than keeping Winnipeg in the east, let’s just try something new and see how it goes, like seriously.

    When the 6 teams after the original 6 were added, if memory serves, they were all in a conference. unfair, unbalanced, but it gets fan bases pumped to be in the finals, gets more profit. grows the sport
    I have faith that the playoffs will still be a grind and whoever is still skating on June well have deserved and earned it

  22. jakreidler - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    I can see them fixing the math issue by expanding to Quebec City (2) and Seattle (4) and then moving the Wings to 3.

  23. ahmadadel83 - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    I’m a west coast guy but I think it’s unfair to the eastern side to have to compete with 2 extra teams to qualify for the playoffs, really doubt the PA will sign off on it unless they a) add 2 teams or b) contract two teams…I’m in for contracting

  24. ironman721 - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Chicago might not lose a conference game for a long time. Weak! And conference 1 is a war zone. Very stupid NHL!

  25. kaptaanamerica - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    I think the NHL got it right with the wild cards.this allows for expansion. You could still add Quebec and Seattle.I’m Glad that Vancouver Will play mostly in the Pacific time zone instead of having teams two time zones away.

  26. letsgopens8771 - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    This is the only way that Winnipeg and Buffalo would make the playoffs.

  27. gbar22 - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Also can’t anyone see a scenario where the top six teams in the east are all playing in the Atlantic?

  28. dongaddy - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Why not put all Canada teams in one division

  29. phillyphanatic77 - Feb 26, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    Well this allayed my fears about some quality teams being left out. I thought it would be top 4 from each conference, but top 3 with wildcards makes more sense. I’m warming up to this new system.

  30. blomfeld - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    I love these proposed changes almost as much as I love the beautiful picture above !

    GO CHANGES !

    GO COMRADE BETTMAN !!!

    GO STANLEY CUP CHAMPION LA KINGS !!!!!! :)

  31. canuck54143 - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    Makes sense with NHL soon moving out of dead beat markets. Florida to Quebec, and Tampa Bay to Hartford. Move Phoenix to Seattle, and Dallas to Hamilton or Toronto.

  32. canuck54143 - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    Or Dallas to Vegas

  33. kingsforever - Feb 27, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    If the divisions/groups aren’t even, the
    players and fans don’t want it. Simple.

  34. kingsforever - Feb 27, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    If the divisions or conferences aren’t evenly divided, the players and fans don’t want it. Simple
    The league has to stop suggesting these uneven realignment plans

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