Revamped playoffs make sense

The Canada West men's hockey playoff format was revamped at the Canada West annual general meeting in Winnipeg this past week. Instead of six of the conference's seven teams making the playoffs, now only the top four will qualify for the postseason. It's far from a subtle change and is something that undoubtedly add more importance to the regular season.

Under the previous system when all but one team made the conference playoffs, it was more of a feat to not make the playoffs than to make them. In many ways teams had to play their way out of the playoffs rather than play their way in - and that's not the way it should be. The move to shrink the playoff pool is a good move as it makes the regular season more critical, and the playoffs truly a showcase for the best of the best in the conference. In a conference with only seven teams having four playoff spots is the best option. Lower seeds have been able to hang with the top teams in the playoffs, as illustrated by the #6 seeded Regina Cougars who beat the #3 seed Manitoba Bisons in the opening round and then pushed Alberta to three games in the conference semifinals, but the regular season needs to hold more importance and the playoff format change is the only way to do that.

The new system is simple - four teams, two semifinal series and a championship final. It will avoid the lengthy layoffs that teams have seen in the past with the top two teams clinching byes in the first round of the playoffs under the old six team format. Those layoffs in many cases have hindered teams more than helped them - as seen this playoff season when both Alberta and Saskatchewan struggled to get their powerplays in sync after their first round byes coupled with players heading off to China for the FISU games.

Maybe if the conference can get back to eight teams having a six team playoff would make sense, but with any expansion in men's hockey a far ways off, moving to a four team playoff is the best thing for the league. The old playoff format which saw every team but one make the playoffs de-valued the regular season to an extent, and with only four teams gaining playoff berths now the regular season should take on added importance in the Canada West.
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  1. The AUS changed their hockey playoff format last week as well. The top two teams still get a first round bye and the bottom two miss the playoffs. The middle four play best-of-threes.

    The change is that now the semi-finals and finals will BOTH be best-of-fives, as opposed to the juggling in the past that saw the series that determined who went to Nationals getting the best-of-five ... and they didn't always get that right.

  2. To: E Daum
    I have to beg to differ with you. Having 6 teams make the playoffs in CW Mens Hockey gives the regular season more meaning. If you would look back at the CWest league standings at the half way point as many as three teams are almost out of the top 4 with little or no chance of making the playoffs ( look back every year for the past 10 years). They almost have to win out in the remaining 14 games to have a chance. What results is meaningless games in February. Have you seen how the game deteriorates when the games are meaningless?
    Ask a coach if they look forward to playing meanless games? Ask a coach how they motivate a college team in Febraury to play in a meaningless weekend series! Ask a coach how much they look forward to playing a team that is out of the playoffs with three weeks to go!?
    When the CW moved to have 6 teams make the playoffs IT was to make the league MORE competitive! To place a bigger value on the league games meant having a stronger more competitve conference. To ensure that the games in Febrary were just as important as the games in November or October! It had nothing to do with how it was going effect Alberta or Saskatchewan's power play. It had everything to do with the big picture! It was going to make all teams more competitive. Teams can build off playoff appearances! It adds to eveyone credibility,it enhances their recruiting, it adds to the continuity of the leagues teams. It makes the league a battle to get thru from October to the end of February!. Take a quick look,Regina and UBC would have missed the playoffs in the new format!? However, in the 6 team format they arguably just completed their most successful seasons in the last ten years! They could build off that! Feel good about the year and it definitely would enhance their recruiting potential and really have them motivated to build for next year! The 4 team team format snuffs the life out of at least two programs in my opinion! ( I personally think that was the motivation or the rationle for the motion!! Limited vision maybe even arrogance!) Maybe that is what those who created the motion wanted?! It devalues the programs who are faced with limited budgets or enrollments. It devalues the efforts people have put in to ensure that CW Mens hockey is the most competitive league in any sport in CW or the CIS. The team that represents our conference in most peoples opinion has gone thru some very tough opponents to get the the nationals! It will in some peoples opinion force some schools into a decision about having a mens hockey program!? (Again a reason for the motion!?) I realize to many in CW administration it looks like it has been a two team league but the gap was closing and it had been for the past 5 years. Quality recruits have been chosing to stay close to home because their teams were more competitve and maybe were one player away from the league championships. They also were looking to go to other teams who had a starting spot and weren't prepared to be waiting on Alerta's or Sask's taxi squad. Not any more!! Limited vision! NICE GOING!?