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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Top Sixteen - by Big Tex

An anonymous comment on yesterday's post set the wheels turning:

How about we use the old system. Take the top 16 teams (points) period. Doesn't matter which conference. NOW you have the best 16 teams.

I really like this idea. For this season, this would mean Philadelphia and Montreal would be out of the playoffs (I'm sure New Jersey and Washington wouldn't mind), replaced by St. Louis and Calgary. I'll leave the debate (over whether the Blues and Flames are more deserving of playoff seeds) to others. The question I have is this: Do the division winners get seeds 1-6, or do you rank the playoff teams in order of finish, division winners be damned? There's a fairly significant difference between the two methods. Here's what the first round would've looked like this year if the division winners were seeded 1-6:

(1*)Washington vs. (16)Calgary
(2*)San Jose vs. (15)St. Louis
(3*)Chicago vs. (14)Boston
(4*)Vancouver vs. (13)Ottawa
(5*)New Jersey vs. (12)Colorado
(6*)Buffalo vs. (11)Nashville
(7)Phoenix vs. (10)Los Angeles
(8)Detroit vs. (9)Pittsburgh

Detroit vs. Pittsburgh in the first round? Wow. Would the Avalanche upset the Devils? Wouldn't surprise me. Nashville over Buffalo? Ditto. VERY interesting...But what do the playoff pairings look like if division winners are lumped in with everyone else? It just so happens I have that info right here:

(1)Washington vs. (16)Calgary
(2)San Jose vs. (15)St. Louis
(3)Chicago vs. (14)Boston
(4)Phoenix vs. (13)Ottawa
(5)Vancouver vs. (12)Colorado
(6)New Jersey vs. (11)Buffalo
(7)Detroit vs. (10)Nashville
(8)Pittsburgh vs. (9)Los Angeles

In this scenario, Phoenix vaults to fourth, while Buffalo falls all the way to eleventh. Pittsburgh now has home ice advantage in the first round. Also interesting...

Travel would seem to be a significant issue with both systems (VAN-OTT or PHX-OTT, WSH-CGY, NJD-COL). In fact, given the physical toll of the playoffs, cross-conference (and cross-continent) first round matchups could prove more costly to teams than not having home-ice advantage. On the other hand, either of these systems should serve to reduce the travel advantage the Eastern Conference currently holds over the West.

What do you think? Are either of these systems better than the current playoff format? If so, which do you prefer? I'll now yield to comments/questions/criticism...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.


etownC said...

I have been saying this for years. They should alternate schedules every year. One year would be division games (the current system), the next year would be a completely balanced schedule with the playoffs being 1 vs. 16, 2 vs 15 etc. That way we could end the debates about the division and conference scheduling where some teams rarely play each other and eastern division teams have significantly easier travel schedule. The NHL had a similar format in the early 80's. I think this would make every year unique and force teams to adjust their play and roster year to year, depending on the schedule.

Sumoallstar said...

This would work fair if teams played each other the same number of times. Having East vs West teams play only 18 times doesn't really allow for mixed seeding.

Also, as per your first eaxample, this could also lead to a majority of a conference's teams being eliminated after the first round (Eastern Conference, I'm looking at you!).

Liam said...

This is only an accurate system if each team played each other the same number of times during the regular season. That's why they break the league up into conferences and divisions. When you've played within your conference more than not, you should be ranked amongst those teams accordingly.