Yesterday Gary Bettman submitted and the board of governors approved a new four conference format. Assuming the NHLPA okays the changes, the new system will be in place next season.
Mr. Bettman and company got this right, especially when it comes time for the playoffs. For the most part traditional rivalries were kept intact and will be playing each other more often in the post-season. Who doesn’t love the idea of the Bruins and Habs going at it more frequently in a best of 7?
More importantly for Albertans, when was the last time the BofA was renewed in the playoffs? Way too long for everyone. Yes, I know both teams must make the playoffs for that to happen. Clubs go through cycles of success and I hope both teams are on the upswing.
After the lockout the league decided that within a division each team would play the others 8 times. The thought was it would amp up the rivalries. It actually caused the opposite effect: seeing the same team so often watered down the battle level. Rivalries are started and intensified through playoff battles, not so much by regular season games.
To reach the semi-final under the new format, a team would have to dominate it’s own division. Playoffs series wars from the previous spring would carry forward to the next year. That will spark more regular season game battles. It would also allow new rivalries to start.
I would still like to see an additional tweak to the playoff system. As is the case now, teams with less points than some other squads in the opposite conference get a ticket to the dance. As discussed with Gregor on his show, it would be great to have a one game battle between the team with the lowest total points in a top-4 position and the club with the highest point total outside of the top-4. Only points count. This would create a great race for that one spot to get in. The game would be played the day after the regular season ended.
As a former player, I love the idea of playing each team at least twice during the year. You get to see all the players and the cities. When I played on the east coast, it was always so special to do the western Canadian swing and be able to play in front of all my family and friends. It was an incredible feeling and quite honestly one of my favorite memories.
It isn’t very often that most people are pleased with the moves of the NHL. This is one time I couldn’t agree with them more.