With all the heavy hitters having weighed in for their takes right off the bat, so with it settling down, it’s time for “ya boy” to step in– here’s my take on this whole idea the SPHL has on higher seeded teams picking their playoff opponent.
This wouldn’t working in the NHL. This wouldn’t work in the AHL. This wouldn’t work in the ECHL. This wouldn’t work in Major Junior. This might work in NCAA. But it definitely works in the SPHL.
The main reason this is perfect is because regardless of who is picked, there’s going to be some backstory to the whole thing. There will be some kind of rivalry, there will be some history from the season behind it– so they don’t need the whole thing of playing within a division or even conference. There’s not enough for either, so it’s evenly proportioned out.
Another reason is that it feeds some kind of fire in everyone. If the #1 seed picks the #5 seed because they have a better record than the #8 seed, then the #1 has to prove that the regular season wasn’t a fluke. More over, the #5 is going to have fire behind them because of the fact that now they feel that this top seed doesn’t think much of them and will want to beat the crap out of them. Considering the series are shorter, as well, that gives little time to adjust– making that first game all the more crucial.
In the NHL or other leagues, the playoffs are a marathon unlike the SPHL– where’s it’s a sprint. Granted, we’ve seen that the lowest seeded teams doesn’t mean they’re the easiest to pick– last year’s Nashville Predators or the 2010 LA Kings showed that. But with other leagues, the stress in the regular season is divisional and conference play; mainly because the NHL thought that’s what people wanted….because for a time they did, especially when they had three divisions and the Southeast would often have just one team in there and they’d be the 3rd seed because they won the division. Put into practice, NHL fans (not surprisingly) hated the playoff format.
If the NHL wanted to do something this drastic– top-16 teams get in the playoffs. To hell with divisions, to hell with conferences– the top-16 on points get in and the hell with the rest. It would never fly with the owners, especially of the middling teams, but it’s the only way for the NHL to really change something.
The only place this would really work out is the NCAA, where the conferences are smaller in size, but I don’t know if the logistics are something the schools would want to deal with or if it’s something they’d have to deal with.
Back to the SPHL, this whole scenario is a smart move from this, with the exception of Peoria, geographically plotted out league. It’s a way to not only keep their fans happy in that every game could be against a possible first round opponent, no matter how good or bad you are– but it gets the league’s name out there for something other than Scott Darling’s career or some fighting shenanigans. Commissioner Jim Combs and the owners of the SPHL should be commended for this. How it plays out– that’s another story for another time. The first step is to get people talking and as we get into March and the end of the season, people will be talking again about this and then the strategy will play out.
Though, I’m sure the coaches and GMs are going to hate as it gets closer because the questions from the press will be the same thing about how they’re going about it or how they plan to play to get into a better seeding.