The OUA has expanded the playoffs from 12 to 16 teams and eliminated the first-round playoff bye, in the wake of a post-season where none of four playoff seeds made it to the Queen's Cup. (Trois-Rivières was the only one to win a playoff round, and it needed two overtimes in the decider.) The trade-off is 16 of 19 teams will make the playoffs — 8-of-10 in the East, which adds the expansion Nipissing Lakers, 8-of-9 in the West.
It seems much tidier just to revise the post from earlier.
- The playoffs will be a true 1-through-8, meaning an end to barely .500 teams earning the No. 2 seed and getting a first-round bye. Last season's No. 2 seeds, Toronto in the East and York in the West, had the fourth- and fifth-best records in their conferences.
"The main feature is having two more playoff teams on each side," Leger said. "We'll still have the four divisions, but the only purpose for those delineations is to help sort out the cross-over scheduling."
In effect, it will be a two-division conference. It would be similar to the early 1980s, when the NHL had a 1-through-16 playoff format. The divisions were still there, but for playoff purposes, they weren't there.
- There is more of an emphasis on conference play. Cross-over scheduling will be set up to "achieve balance over a period of time." It will take 3-4 years for everyone to play everyone, but the intention is to address concerns that certain teams played the Lakeheads of the world more often than some of their rivals.
"There was a real appetite from the coaches to have a cross-over," Leger says. "There was talk about having all East teams play all West teams, but some of the coaches and athletic directors weren't too happy. However, there was a lot of interest to have a cross-over, and thankfully we're going to have one.
"Having a strong team like a Waterloo or a Western is good for our team and good for our school."
- It seems like cross-over play, based on two teams' schedules which were posted online, will all take place before Jan. 1. That means teams will be going head-to-head during the closing sprint that begins on the first weekend of January, which is a positive development.
Last season, Ottawa was dealing with an injury bug when it went just 1-2-1 during a four-game swing vs. Mid West teams, which made it harder for hold off Queen's for the final playoff spot.
- The schedule is sticking at 28 games. Lakehead and Queen's each posted schedules that had 30 conference games, but the schedule increase didn't get approval.
There likely will be some sniping about increasing the size of the playoff tournament, especially after Canada West reduced its from six teams to four. However, the OUA is essentially pursing the same objective, getting rid of byes in the post-season that can leave a team sitting around and doing special teams drills for a week.
Meantime, Leger did pass along some recruiting news with a Kingston angle. Stay-at-home defenceman Tyler Hill, who captained the Kingston Kimco Voyageurs team which won the Central Canadian title, is joining the Gee-Gees.
(Thanks to Todd Mathers for the tip about the expanded playoffs. He's also got a good suggestion about possibly having fewer teams in the post-season and playing best-of-5 series.)
New format for OUA (tbnewswatch, June 9)