I know there are some of you out there who, like me, couldn't explain the NHL's new wild card format, given the new Divisions created in each Conference after the realignment. I had to look it up and do a little studying on what it means and even some reactions out there about it.
Who Makes The Playoffs?
There are 4 divisions: The Pacific and Central Divisions in the Western Conference,and the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions in the Eastern Conference. At the end of the season, the top 3 teams in each division will secure a playoff spot. That's 12 out of 16 teams, what about the other 4? That's where the Wild Card format comes into play. Each Conference will have 2 Wild Card teams that make the dance. The top 2 teams in each Conference that did not finish in the top 3 of their division that have the highest amount of points will secure a playoff spot. That could mean more teams from a certain Division will get in than another. There could be 5 Pacific Division teams that get in and 3 from the Central Division if the Pacific is that dominant.
So let's take a look at the Western Conference as it stands right now.
If the playoffs started today, the top 3 Pacific Division teams are:
2. San Jose
3. Los Angeles
2. St. Louis
The Division leader with the most points in the Conference will play the Wild Card team with the lowest amount of points. The other Division leader will play the Wild Card team with the highest amount of points. The second and third place teams in each division will play each other in the first round. Something about that stinks. Wait for it...
So if the playoffs started today, the 2 Wild Card teams in the West are (in order): Vancouver and Phoenix, both from the Pacific Division. So, the Round 1 match ups would be:
Anaheim vs Phoenix
Chicago vs Vancouver (woa!!)
St. Louis vs Colorado
San Jose vs Los Angeles
But there are circumstances that could really flaw this new setup. It's not so bad as it stand in the West (above), except that Chicago would have to play a 6th seed team instead of the 7th place seed under the old system. That's not fair. It could even be a 2nd place team in the Conference playing a 5th place team. What the heck? If a division is far more dominant than the other it gets even worse, as the New York Post's Larry Brooks pointed out in his column this past November. God forbid if that happens. He was referring to the lack of parity in the Eastern Conference's Divisions at the time where the worst case scenario could happen:
the hybrid divisional format would guarantee either the team with the East’s seventh- or eighth-best record advances to the second round, while the club with either the conference’s third or fourth best record is knocked out.
Unless I am missing something, that is totally absurd! So keep an eye on this as the second half of the season goes on. They really should have left this concept alone.