The SJHL will have a new look next season. Here’s the league’s press release. http://www.sjhl.ca/news_article/show/213460?referrer_id=618093
* Three divisions with 4 teams in each division. The North Stars will be in a division with Humboldt, Notre Dame and Kindersley. The other divisions will have the north teams Flin Flon, La Ronge, Melfort and Nipawin together. And down south Estevan, Weyburn, Yorkton and Melville will be in a division.
* Unbalanced schedule. The release says a 56 game schedule will be played in the regular season. So by my math that’s 8 games against division opponents. 4 home and 4 away. That’s 24 divisional games. Then 4 each against the other 8 teams in the league. 2 home and 2 away. That’s 32 non-divisional games. Combined it would make a 56 game schedule.
* Playoff seeding. The division winners are ranked 1-3. The second place teams in the divisions are ranked 4-6. Then the next 4 teams in the league are ranked 7-10. Two teams miss the playoffs. The 7-10 seeds play a wildcard round. Similar to the current survivor series. 7 vs 10 and 8 vs 9 playoff in 5 game series with the winners being ranked 7th and 8th. Then it’s a league wide playoff with 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7 and so on.
North Stars president Ray Adelman spoke with CJNB/CJNS news guy Kelly Bitner yesterday and said he likes the changes. The North Stars are happy to be able to play extra games against the Kindersley Klippers. That’s an old school natural rivalry that still has some heat. And will have even more in the future. The Stars also get more games with Humboldt. It sounds like with the schedule the North Stars will have less trips to La Ronge, Flin Flon and Nipawin. Adelman says the Stars won’t have more travel or more costs because of the change and could end up saving a little.
The playoff format allows for potential league championship series between two teams from the same division. So the North Stars could conceivably face Kindersley or Humboldt in the league final. Adelman says the changes to the schedule and the playoff format will be good for the SJHL and fans will like the changes. I tend to agree.
The only issue I have personally with the changes are that division winners are automatically seeded 1-3 and the second place teams seeded 4-6. Hypothetically that means the Stars could finish second in the league behind Humboldt and be ranked as a 4 seed. I am not sure if the teams are re-seeded after the first round. But this format means the league’s two best teams could face off in the second round of the playoffs (or third round if you count the wildcard playoffs as a round) rather than the final. And I don’t like that idea.
I think division winners should be guaranteed a playoff spot. But after that I saw rank the teams based on record. And not based on what division they just happen to be playing in. Some will say my concerns are countered by the unbalanced schedule. And there is something to that suggestion. It’s just a personal complaint that I also have with the NHL’s division winners playoff format.