Officials' playoff picture not so black and white

4/4/2006 - NHL


Hands up!

Those who wish Boston, the New York Islanders, Toronto, Florida and Atlanta were going hammer and tong to decide the ninth and 10th playoff berths in the Eastern Conference?
OK, Don Waddell, put your hand down. You too, Mike Keenan.

How about watching Phoenix and Minnesota scrabbling and clawing to move into 10th in the Western Conference? No? Didn't think so.

In the aftermath of the NHL lockout, there was much debate about adding two more teams to the playoff mix in each conference. The idea was that teams in seventh through 10th would play a mini play-in series before the start of the traditional four rounds of best-of-seven competition.

The rationale (apart from being an obvious cash grab) was to maintain a higher level of interest in more markets deeper in the regular season. But if this season's frantic playoff hunts in both conferences are any indication, there's no reason to expand the playoff pool.

Those teams currently residing outside the playoff bubble (San Jose, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Florida, Toronto, et al) will all have to put together significant streaks to qualify. They should. They all deserve to be exactly where they are for a variety of reasons, just as those teams currently holding postseason tickets deserve to be where they are.

Does that mean good teams will be on the outside looking in? Sure. But, too bad. Next season, play better. It remains a more palatable option than having lesser teams clutter up a meaningless playoff round that would actually diminish the current races. -- S.B.