The BCHL has changed its playoff format – again.
Following numerous meetings, conference calls and proposed scenarios, a Task Force Committee created in June 2017 by the BCHL Board of Governors has recommended a format for the 2018 BCHL playoffs.
Trail Smoke Eaters director of hockey operations, Craig Clare attended the meetings and was satisfied with the results.
“To us it didn’t really change anything,” said Clare.”From the league standpoint it was to eliminate the bye in the Interior Division. There was a lot of formats, and really what the league wanted to do was get a little stability and try something we can sustain for the next couple years, and also make it easy on the fans to understand the playoff format.”
The Board voted to keep the league’s three-division alignment for the regular season, eliminate the first-round bye in the Interior Division playoffs, have a potential crossover for the final two seeds in the Interior, and have 16 of the 17 teams make the playoffs.
While the preponderance of teams in the postseason seems to diminish the importance of the regular season, for Clare and the Smoke Eaters, finishing in the top four is paramount for a long playoff run.
“For us, it’s getting into a position of home-ice advantage and setting ourselves up. For our division in particular, I think it’s important just based on the fact you want to align yourself come playoff time. If you fall to five and have to make it on the road, it’s going to be awfully tough especially potentially against Penticton, Vernon, or Wenatchee.”
The last-place team crossover may prove the most unappealing aspect of the format. The prospect of the first- and/or second-place team in the Interior facing an Island or Mainland Division team like Alberni Valley is not necessarily an advantage.
“It will be interesting to see how it all plays out,” said Clare. “Potentially we could be playing an Island or Mainland team in the first round of the playoffs. For us, it would have to be a 2-3-2 format (in the best-of-seven series).”
The 2018 Fred Page Cup BCHL Playoffs will adhere to the following structure:
– The top-four teams from both the Island and Mainland Divisions will qualify for the playoffs and will be seeded No. 1 to No. 4.
– In the Interior Division, which has seven teams now that the Wenatchee Wild have joined, the top-six teams will qualify for the playoffs, seeded No. 1 to No. 6.
– The last-place team from each division (Island fifth place, Mainland fifth place and Interior seventh place) will be eligible to compete in the Interior Division opening round as the No. 7 or 8 seed.
– The top two of the three last-place teams, determined by regular-season points total, will go into the Interior Division for Round 1. The Island and/or Mainland team crossing over will be the No. 7 or No. 8 seed if they have a higher points total than the Interior last-place team.
– All playoffs rounds will be a best-of-seven format. The winner of the Island versus Mainland Coastal final will play the winner of the Interior Division in the Fred Page Cup BCHL Finals.