I was going to wait until Monday to post my thoughts on the BCHL’s newly announced playoff format but I’m afraid I just can’t wait.
Before you consider my musings on the issue, if you haven’t already, take a look at today’s announcement.
So gone is the round-robin experiment which certainly had its issues but at least provided a fair and equitable post-season format. Yes it was odd, but it worked. Could it have been rolled out and explained to fans and media better? Absolutely. But for all its complications it was actually quite simplistic in nature. If the BCHL intends to continue to have three divisions it was the only fair way to proceed.
Now, however, you have three different sets of rules for three different divisions and a clear favouritism for the Interior.
The fact remains the BCHL will not resort back to a two division or conference system because of the regular season travel costs involved for the Island and Lower Mainland teams. Combining those, which has been done in the past, means more ferry trips, more hotel nights and meals and a substantially greater cost to every team involved to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars per year. It’s a burden most if not all of those teams cannot afford.
But one of the big negative points (at least in my opinion) of this new system is the added cost of a potential cross-over team. Imagine the Coquitlam Express have to play Trail in a best of seven first round series. And to be honest that very scenario, or one just like it, is a very real possibility come March. Even in a 2-3-2 format (which I would assume would take place), you’re talking a massive bill for both teams as opposed to a first round matchup within your own division and within driving distance of each game (no overnight hotel stays, reduced meal costs). Then let’s say the Express win that series. They will have yet another best of seven outside the division, and maybe even another after that before reaching the league final! The cost for any team in this scenario is astronomical and ludicrous.
Things on the Island stay the same until the league final so let’s just leave them out of the discussion. It’s the only division with five rather than six teams hence not offering any crossover potential and that is fair. But that’s pretty much where the fairness ends.
The top two teams in the Interior get a bye through to the second round. Why? Why not the top two teams in the Mainland? Or why not the top team in each division? What is the thinking here? Why does the Interior get the clear advantage? Barring a complete meltdown, one of these teams (as always has been the case in the last handful of years) will be the Penticton Vees who then get a full two-week rest along with another Interior club. Now you can argue the pros and cons of resting for so long, it’s not a terrible problem to have. But it’s clearly not fair to the others.
With this new set-up, 14 of the 17 teams in the league now qualify for the post-season. That is FAR too many.
Going back to the main reason for adopting this format, it gets rid of the round robin. But again, I say that was a far more fair way to conduct business. It appears several teams that have appeared in the three-year experiment did not appreciate the format. Nanaimo Clippers head coach Mike Vandekamp had publicly spoken out about how any playoff series should be between two teams in a best of seven (or 5 or whatever) showdown. I get it, it’s the classic tried and tested way of doing things and generally I agree. But is the main issue really not being able to think outside the box? Was this decision made based on what is better for a few teams or what’s better for the league as a whole?
I guess I shouldn’t get too worked up about it, the league will likely just change formats again in 2 years.