Gone are the days of the round robin as on Friday, the BCHL announced a new playoff format for the 2017 Fred Page Cup playoffs, eliminating the three-team round robin from the mix after three seasons and bringing back a structure similar to the one that was implemented before the round robins existence.
As it states in the release, the top four in the Island Division and the top four teams in the Mainland Division all play 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 to determine a Division winner before two divisions square off against each other to see who will move on to play in the Fred Page Cup Finals. That is simple and straightforward. Where things get a bit hairy is talking about the Interior Division.
Like it was back in 2012, the BCHL will bring back a first round bye but not just for the division winner as it will be both teams finishing 1st and 2nd in the division, making for the 3rd and 6th place finishers to play one another and then the 4th and 5th placed teams will battle it out. After that, the lower seeded team will play the #1 seed in the division and then the #2 seed would play the other team that advanced from the first round. So, for example, if the #3 and #5 seed advanced to the 2nd round, it would be 1 vs. 5 and 2 vs. 3 (I hope that helps explain it).
The twist in this comes in the way of a potential crossover team as the 5th placed Mainland Division could crossover into the Interior Division if their record is better than the 6th placed Interior Division team. For example, right now the BCHL playoffs, if they started today, would look like this:
1) Victoria vs. 4) Nanaimo
2) Cowichan Valley vs. 3) Powell River
1) Wenatchee vs. 4) Coquitlam
2) Chilliwack vs. 3) Prince George
1st Round Bye: 1) Penticton, 2) Merritt
3) Vernon vs. 6) Langley
4) Salmon Arm vs. 5) Trail
And that’s where the crossover would come into play because Langley’s 12 points are better than the Warriors 11 points.
My personal opinion on it? For the most part, I like where this is going.
I like the fact that the round robin is a thing of the past (I was never really a huge ambassador of it although I thought the picture was getting clearer as the years went on and that the whole thing started to make more sense). This structure seems to be pretty straightforward with the only confusing part really being the crossover bit but other than that, I like the way this format works. I was a fan of how the old system worked and thought it breeded more rivalries with more teams involved. With now potentially six teams going to the playoffs from the Interior Division, the rivalries that can only come from playoff hockey will be interesting to watch.
Although, there is a side that can argue that the regular season could lose meaning with potentially all 6 teams making it into the postseason, but that’s where the crossover team comes into play and helps keep the competitiveness high throughout the course of the 58-game regular season.
The only issue that I personally have is with how many playoff format changes have happened over the past few years, making it difficult for fans to keep track. It seemed as though the round robin was just starting to make sense for some before it has now been removed. The timing of the announcement is interesting as well as I’m sure this would have made a bit more sense if announced on July 28th instead of October 28th. But all in all, I like how this will make regular season rivalries more intense with more playoff action against one another.