Your Call: Should the NHL change its playoff seeding system? Staff

4/2/2012 8:13:27 PM

The next week will determine which exciting match-ups hockey fans can look forward to in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But some questions remain to be answered:

Which teams will squeak in and draw a top-flight team like the Canucks, Blues or Rangers?

Can the Panthers and Kings hold onto tenuous division leads?

Who will get home ice when the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins meet in the first round?

Wait… what?

The Penguins (with 102 points, good for fourth-most in the NHL this year) and Flyers (fifth with 101) are all but guaranteed to meet in the first round. The only possible way they don't is if the Rangers completely implode – meaning the Rangers would get one or the other - or the Devils suddenly catch fire.

Any way you slice it, two 100-point teams are meeting in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while two teams that still have not clinched a playoff spot will be granted home-ice advantage in the first round.

So, what can the NHL do to fix the divide?

The league tried to alter the playoff format with its proposed realignment plan, but that was shot down because of the numerical imbalance between the four conferences. Instead, they ensured at least one more year in which a team that finishes with the sixth-worst record in its conference will have the luxury of home-ice for a potential Game Seven.

The simplest fix would be to implement the NBA's seeding system. The division winners and the top second-place finisher in the Conference are all granted home court in the first round, but are still ranked by record. As of right now, that would make the Penguins the second seed in the East with Boston and Florida getting three and four respectively.

But that, too, presents a problem with the Flyers (or Penguins, or Devils… take your pick) starting a series in Florida despite a potential points advantage of double-digits.

Or perhaps the league should guarantee division winners no more than a playoff spot. It's extremely unlikely that a team could win its division while not earning a playoff berth, though not mathematically impossible.

So, while the Red Wings (the league's sixth-best team) prepare for a first-round slugfest against the Predators (seventh overall) or the Blackhawks (eighth), five teams are still reaching for the stars. The Panthers, Capitals, Kings, Coyotes and Sharks – none of whom have locked up a playoff spot yet – all have a legitimate shot at home-ice advantage in the first round.

Changing the system as is ignores the weighted divisional schedule the league has implemented and matching the teams up by overall record regardless of conference would mean a lot more travel for a lot more teams.

But should the league consider one or the other to avoid the scenario where the league's 14th-best team gets an easier ride than the fourth-best?

Or, does winning your division warrant preferential treatment, regardless of a team's record?

How can the NHL fix its playoff-seeding format?

As always, it's Your! Call.