Patient approach to playoffs right move
November, 13, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN.com
AP Photo/The Canadian Press,/Jonathan HaywardIn the current playoff format, the Blackhawks and Canucks could face off in the first round.TORONTO -- One of the things one NHL general manager said he appreciates about Gary Bettman is that, during meetings like Tuesday's in Toronto, he does a good job of getting the temperature of the room on important issues and is willing to make tweaks and changes if it improves the game.
But Bettman also stresses that knee-jerk reaction is rarely a good solution.
That was the approach with the examination of the new divisional playoff system, approved by the NHL board of governors in March.
As the season has played out, and possible first-round matchups materialize, a realization is hitting that it might not be the most perfect solution. Better options were discussed Tuesday.
"I don't think there is [a perfect solution]," said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when we chatted after the meeting.
A refresher: The top three finishers in each division earn the first 12 playoff spots. Each conference has two wild-card berths that will be given to the next two highest point-earners, regardless of division. In the first round, the division winner with the best record will play the wild card with the fewest points.
In theory, it sounds great, and it helped alleviate concerns some players had about competitive imbalance that might come with unequal divisions.
The concerns among general managers I spoke with? For one, the division playoff format was created to help increase interdivisional rivalries. Playing a crossover wild-card team in the first round doesn't accomplish that.
The second concern is with travel.
Let's say the Blackhawks win the Central with the highest point total in the West and Vancouver sneaks into that last spot, setting up a first-round series between the Canucks and Blackhawks. It's great for us, because those two teams make for a compelling playoff series. It's not so great for the Blackhawks, who would get hit with a grueling travel schedule that this playoff format was set up to help eliminate.
"That's part of the reason why we went to two divisions in each conference," said Red Wings GM Ken Holland. "To build rivalries, less travel."