In what is one of the most bold, different, unique, and intriguing changes I have ever seen a league in any sport make, the Southern Professional Hockey League announced changes to its playoff format Monday, giving the best teams in the league the chance to pick who they play in the opening round of the playoffs.
The top eight (8) finishers in the league standings will make the playoffs:
CHALLENGE ROUND (FIRST ROUND)
On Sunday, April 8, the League Office will conduct a Challenge Round Selection event with all eight playoff teams participating.
For the Challenge Round, the top three teams from the regular season will have the opportunity to select their first round opponent from the teams seeded 5-8.
The #1 seed will select their Challenge Round opponent first. The #2 seed will then select their opponent from the remaining three teams, after which the #3 seed will select from the remaining two teams. The #4 seed will play the team that was not selected previously. All series are best-of-three.
After the opening round, the teams that advance will then play each other based on regular season standings, like the rest of the world does.
Personally, I think this is a fantastic and interesting idea. Say the top-seed in the playoffs struggled with the No. 8 seed in the regular season, but dominated the No. 6 or 7 seed, they could then skip that team altogether and play the team they had more success against.
Personally, I think this is a great move and one that will make the opening round of the playoffs more intriguing, as well as giving teams even more of an incentive to try to clinch a top-seed, rather than just coasting into the playoffs, and maybe even adds in more off-the-ice strategy and thinking
Though, in a league with 10 teams I do wonder how often this will come into effect, because it seems to me like the best team will always want to play the worst team available.
But, who knows, if one of those lower teams had a key injury late in the season or had a player called up to a higher league, maybe that changes their thinking.
I’d be interested to see this happen in any of the four major leagues, like say this format allows the Washington Capitals to somehow avoid the Pittsburgh Penguins, or maybe teams in the NBA dodge teams that played them tough during the regular season.
Well done SPHL, I can’t wait to see how this idea plays out next spring.