The WHL has adopted a new Playoff format this year and I haven't really payed attention to it until now. I personally hate it because of a flaw in a potential unbalanced conference alignment in which we saw last season.
Ultimately you need to beat the best to be the best. Playing a 72 game season then getting thrown into a wolf, or mouse playoff seems unfair.
This years Format is determined by the top 3 in each division + 2 wildcards.
The 2nd and 3rd place team in each division play against in each in the first round. So throw away your thinking about 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5...
This is how last year would have ended up.
1 Regina 85 pts --DIVISION WINNER.#2 Plays higher wildcard
2. Swift Current 85 pts 2ND IN DIVISION Plays BELOW
3. Brandon 77 pts 3RD IN DIVISION PLAYS ABOVE
4. Prince Albert 75 pts WILDCARD #2 (Lesser)
5. Moose Jaw 51 pts
6. Saskatoon 37 pts
1. Edmonton 103 pts DIVISION WINNER#1 plays lesser wildcard
2. Calgary 103 pts 2ND IN DIVISION PLAYS BELOW
3. Medicine Hat 92 pts 3RD IN DIVISION PLAYS ABOVE
4. Kootenay 83 pts WILDCARD #1 (higher)
5. Red Deer 75 pts
6. Lethbridge 29 pts
PA defeated the Rebels in a tiebreaker in regular season.
First Round (Seeds are by regular season total points)
#4 Regina(DIVISION WINNER) Vs #6 Kootenay (Higher wildcard)
#5 Swift Vs #7Brandon
#1 Edmonton (Division Winner) vs #8Prince Albert (Lesser Wildcard)
#2 Calgary Vs #3Medicine Hat
Second Round - The Winners of each bracket play each other.
Third Round - Bracket One vs Bracket two
The top 3 seeds are all in one bracket, and they will play each other in the first two rounds These should be 3rd and 4th round matchups not 1st and 2nd round matchups. Meanwhile the #6 seed Kootenay is suddenly enjoying life.
A month before the season ended when Kootenay and the Tigers were neck and neck, really it would be better to loose a few games and drop back, as Kootenay had a much better position in the playoffs than the Tigers.
To me this scenario is complete garbage and I really hope we don't see it. The weaker teams get rewarded with more potential playoff games and the good teams get penalized.
Equal Balanced Conferences
How this goes remains to be seen, whether the #1 seeds will take advantage of more weary second round opponents, or whether it will be harder as their opposition will be rivals and more battle tested, it will probably even out.
I think there is a higher chances for upsets playing close rivals, and the path in playoffs is a notch more difficult.
I think we will see on average more playoff games played per year, less overall travel, and more money generated. The road to the finals will get harder. I really hope we don't see conference imbalances because that could put a damper on a strong season. It does make divisional games that much more important. If you have a great season you are hoping for teams in your division to be weaker.