WHL changes playoff format

System mirrors new NHL format, rewards strong divisional teams.

The Western Hockey League playoff format has changed following the league’s annual general meeting in Vancouver this week.

Taking their cue from the NHL, the WHL has approved the same playoff format—which was introduced this past season—and will run for three years starting in the 2014-15 campaign.

While the previous format pitted the first-place team against the eighth-place team system, the new system rewards strong teams divisonally.

“”…The Board of Governors felt that the new NHL format was the best of both worlds, kind of a hybrid between the division and the conference,” said Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager for the Kootenay Ice.

WHL commissioner Ron Robison echoed the same sentiment in a press release.

“We believe the new format is a hybrid of the WHL’s previous conference and divisional formats,” said Robison. “This will allow us to feature our regional rivalries in the playoffs and offer the most fair and competitive path to the WHL championship.”

the top three teams in each Division make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed teams in each Conference, based on their regular-season record and regardless of Division. It is possible for one Division in each Conference to send five teams to the postseason while the other Division sends just three.

In the First Round, the Division winner with the best record in each Conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lesser record; the wild card team with the better record will play the other Division winner.

The teams finishing second and third in each Division will meet in the First Round within the bracket headed by their respective division winners. First-round winners within each bracket play one another in the Second Round to determine the four participants in the Conference Finals.

Home-ice advantage through the first two rounds goes to the team that placed higher in the regular-season standings. In the Conference Finals and WHL Championship Series, home-ice advantage goes to the team that had the better regular-season record – regardless of the teams’ final standing in their respective Divisions.

Chynoweth added that he is a fan of the new NHL playoff system.

“The format in the NHL has worked really well,” said Chynoweth. “I think it’s created a lot of interest for hockey fans throughout the league and I think it can do the same for the Western Hockey League.

“We’ve got some great rivalries in our league as well, and I think it will only enhance those rivalries.”