Last season, the best division in all of hockey was the Metropolitan, with 4 teams from that division getting 100 or more points. Most people expected them to be good, but probably not as good as they were. Currently, each team has about ten games left in the regular season. The Atlantic division is a war zone right now, with no team safe just yet. Meanwhile, in the Metropolitan, the top three teams have already secured playoff spots. Why is this division so dominant and does something need to change to fix the equilibrium?
The Washington Capitals were the best team in hockey last year, racking up an astonishing 120 points. They have so many great players that it wasn’t much of surprise to see that they are back up there again this year. The Pittsburgh Penguins are another team that was expected to be good this year. They won the Stanley Cup last year which just goes to show how good they are. Columbus was the real surprise of the division. They were not one of the top teams in the division last year and now they are competing for the Presidents’ Trophy. They don’t really have a true superstar on their team, but they have an incredible chemistry, and that is winning them games.
One way to explain the dominance of this division is that the top teams are so much better than the bottom of the division. There are four games against division rivals every year, therefore these top teams would be playing against weaker teams more often. Combining this with the fact that they are incredibly good is a recipe for success.
Daniel Winnik, of the Washington Capitals, expressed some concern with the current way that the divisions are working. Assuming that the two top teams in the Metropolitan win their first round series, the top two teams in the Eastern conference would have to face each other in the second round. The current playoff format was put into place to create a bigger emphasis on division playoff matchups, but it doesn’t seem right for the top two teams in the league to play before the conference finals.
The former format was a much simpler format where the top eight teams of each conference would make the playoffs. The first and second place teams would not be able to play each other until the conference finals.
I think that it would make a lot more sense to revert back to the old system since it guarantees that the best teams will make the playoffs. There are so many different variables that can have an influence now that it can get confusing. I think that most people want the best teams to be playing for the longest amount of time, so it only makes sense to have the old system.
The NHL is not likely to change the format again since it was just changed a few years ago, but it is one that still has many flaws. We will have to wait and see what the Metropolitan will be able to pull off in the playoffs, because anything can happen during that time of year.