Thursday, March 1, 2012

Let's Do This The Convoluted Way!

One thing I have never understood is the way the NHL and NBA decide who moves on to the playoffs, and who goes fishin', golfin' or whatever it is that the players on the 14 teams that don't make it want to do. More specifically, I don't get why these two leagues have made it more complicated than it needs to be by giving division leaders the top spots, while teams with better records get shafted.

Let me give you an example. In the NHL, the three division leaders are garunteed the top three spots in their conference, so the Panthers are 3rd in the East although their record is only 7th best in the conference, and the Coyotes are 3rd in the West although their record is only good enough to be 6th. While there are still 20 or so games to go and things could change drastically, it's likely that at least one team will get the short end of the stick when the post-season begins.

The difference between a 3rd place finish and a 6th (or 7th) place finish is huge. It gives a team home-ice advantage, or home court in the NBA, that doesn't deserve it while penalizing a team which, record wise, should be a top four team. The NBA figured this out a while back and changed their format to allow division leaders the 1st through 4th spots, while awarding the other spot that isn't taken by a leader to the team with the next best record. So if two teams in the same division have the top two records, they'll have the top two seeds and the other two division leaders will take 3rd and 4th. This does not completely eliminate the problem, but it does address it.

Here's what I don't get - why don't the top 8 spots go to the 8 best teams based on their records? You can even keep the divisions intact to keep rivalries strong, or whatever it is they do.  Instead of rewarding the best team in the worst division, just place teams based on how good they are. I don't see an argument you can make against it (but if you do, I want to hear it).  It seems to be the fair way to do things, and the best part, it actually makes the most freakin' sense.

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