A Modest Proposal, Part Deaux

So in our last Modest Proposal, we investigated what the deal was with the point system. In moving along with that theme, we’d like to go forward and investigate the big mama of all large ladies – the Divisional Alignments. HERE. WE. GO.

The NHL is currently set up with two Conferences – East and West – with three Divisions in each Conferences – Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast in the East and the Central, Northwest, and the Pacific in the West. Each division has five teams. Divisional opponents play one another six times per year, Conference opponents play one another four times per year, and each team plays a total of 18 Inter-Conference (East teams against West teams, and vice versa…) per year. This makes a grand total of 82 games in a regular season. Simply put…:

Current Regular Season Schedule

That being said, they playoffs works like this: each of the Divisions has a head honcho, the big wig, the main man, or in the case of the Southeast Division a medium large contender. The team that earns the most points of their respective division, astonishingly, wins the division. For example:

2011-2012 Atlantic Division

The New York Rangers amassed 109 points over the regular season, more than any other team in the Atlantic Division. Simple question follows: why would my team want to win their division? Well, other than the obvious answer of that team having the best record assuming it would be a winning one, they get an automatic berth into the playoffs.

That means that there are 6 automatic playoff bids – one for each of the divisions. There are a 8 playoff spots in each conference, making a total of 16 spots. Here’s where it gets interesting:

2011-2012 Eastern Conference Standings

Lets look at the rest of the Eastern Conference from this year. The three division leaders are NY Rangers, Boston, and Florida. Like we said, they get an automatic bid into the playoffs. After those 3 spots, there are 5 left. Those 5 spots go to the 5 teams (from any division) with the next best regular season records.

The NY Rangers amassed 109 points, Boston 102, and Florida 94 this season. If you look down the list, the next best teams are (in order of record) Pittsburgh (108), Philadelphia (105), New Jersey (102), Washington (92), and Ottawa (92).  These teams make up the playoff teams from the Eastern Conference. They are seeded according to the way we have listed them (i.e. NYR 1, BOS 2, etc.)

Okay. Pause. Question: Why is it that if a team, say Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, has more points than another team, say Boston or Florida, is the first team seeded lower? That, my hockey friends, is a very good question. The answer is that the division leaders, regardless of record, get a playoff berth as well as one of the top three seeds in that conference, which is ranked according to record. Specifically speaking:

2011-2012 Eastern Conference Playoff Standings

Going off of the last two infographics, we see that despite Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New Jersey having better regular season records than both Boston and Florida, they are ranked lower because Boston and Florida are division leaders.

Okay, another question: what’s the point of finishing with a good record if your division is already locked up? Right. That’s what everyone, including Peter Laviollette. I can’t find where, but he was pretty upset (imagine that) about having to play the Pens in the first round, despite having a better record than Florida and Boston. I would be too. I don’t want to play Philly in the first round. It’s going to be a bloodbath. Whichever team wins will undoubtedly limp out of the first round.

So now we see the problem with the way the seeding is set up. What’s the Pens’ reward for capturing the second best record in the East (4th best in the NHL)? Playing the Flyers in the first round (3rd best in East, 6th best in the league.) Doesn’t sound fair.

no worries

So what’s our solution? Look for our next installment coming soon. It would have been too much to put in one post.


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