The Trail Smoke Eaters are all but guaranteed a playoff spot with the new BCHL playoff format.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are all but guaranteed a playoff spot with the new BCHL playoff format.

BCHL changes playoff format

Interior division champion to playoff against winner of Mainland and Island division in Fred Page Cup final.

The BCHL board of governors approved a new postseason format for the 2017 Fred Page Cup BCHL Playoffs.

The ongoing problem for the League is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The BCHL consists of three divisions, the Island, Mainland and Interior Divisions, yet must still arrive at two teams to compete for the title.

The league came up with a new format that will see all but three teams make the playoffs. The major change will occur in the Interior Division where six teams qualify for the playoffs, including a possible crossover team from the Mainland Division.

With the teams ranked No. 1 to No. 6, the top-two seeds will get a first-round bye. The Round 1 best-of-seven matchups will see the No. 3-seed facing the No. 6-seed and the No. 4-seed facing the No. 5-seed. In Round 2, the No. 1-seed (having had a bye) will face the lowest-seeded team to advance. The No. 2-seed will face the other team that advances.

Should the fifth-place team in the Mainland Division have more points than the sixth-place team from the Interior, the Mainland team will cross over to the Interior and play as the No. 6-seed in Round 1.

The changes are intended to help streamline a cumbersome playoff format, where the top-four teams played in divisional finals, followed by a three-team round robin tournament for the winners of each division, followed by the best-of-seven BCHL final.

“I think for this year it will work,” said Trail Smoke Eaters new Director of Hockey Operations, Craig Clare. “Obviously, it’s not something that is sustainable, because the regular season needs to mean something. For us, our mindset doesn’t really change, we truly believe we are a top-4 team in our division.”

The new format will guarantee at least two home playoff games for two teams that otherwise would be on the outside looking in. If the same format would have been instituted five years ago, the Smoke Eaters would have made the playoffs in three of those years.

“I think it’s to raise a little bit extra revenue for teams around the league, generate a little bit of excitement, get some more teams into the playoffs. You look at the league this year, it’s pretty wide open; Wenatchee and Penticton are again strong teams, but other than that if you don’t show up to the rink and have a good game, you are going to lose.”

Island Division: The top-four teams will make the playoffs with the No. 1-seed facing the No. 4-seed and the No. 2-seed facing the No. 3-seed in Round 1. The winners will advance to the Division finals. The winner of the Division finals will advance to play the winner of the Mainland Division.

Mainland Division: The top-four teams will make the playoffs with the No. 1-seed facing the No. 4-seed and the No. 2-seed facing the No. 3-seed in Round 1. The winners will advance to the Division finals. The winner of the Division finals will advance to play the winner of the Island Division.

Once the Interior determines its champion, that team will play the winner of the Island-Mainland best-of-seven in the Fred Page Cup BCHL Finals.

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