Saving the best for last: OHL playoffs need to be fixed

By El Seldo (@ElSeldo)

The last time I spoke about the OHL it was on realignment. I was looking at the current odd divisions we have in the East, with Hamilton sitting with Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, and Oshawa. The Bulldogs have to drive through another division to get to their opponents, and that’s just silly. The best idea was to drop divisions entirely and split the league into East & West Conferences, for travel needs.

After that smart decision, I wanted to tackle the OHL playoffs.

With such a small travel area, I’ve always wanted to change the OHL playoffs to mimic the QMJHL – seeding 1-16, instead of by conferences. It’s a simple idea, and one I’ve used the new alignment in.

The winner of each conference gets the top two seeds, and the rest of the 14 teams get sorted by points.

To do this I charted the past seven OHL seasons and compared the travel between the current playoff format and my new one. You can view the data here.

What we’ve found is better teams who were previously eliminated got in, knocking an inferior team out. This happened 4/7 times: 15/16 (Saginaw out, Hamilton in), 12/13 (Mississauga out, Windsor in), 10/11 (Belleville out, Sarnia in), and 09/10 (Sudbury out, Owen Sound in).

Here is a new example of the 1-16 seeding for the 2016 OHL Playoffs:


Previous division winners were taken out of their lofty position, Barrie was 2nd in the East this year, in the new format they’d get the sixth seed. Second in the east took the worst drops in the new format, going down to seventh in 13/14, sixth in 09/10, and never doing better than fourth seed.

Many time the better western teams were given much lower seeded opponents, and that’s the goal of this experiment: Give the better teams a better chance to move on in the playoffs. Of the top 8 teams in the past playoffs, 5 were from the west, and why shouldn’t they get better seeding?

This isn’t the NHL, there’s no national broadcast schedule to worry about, and all the games are in the same time zone. The worst this can bring is added travel costs to the teams, traveling inter-conference for the playoffs.

First of all, the W and Q say shut up about travel.

Second, the impact is minimal most seasons. Out of the past 7 seasons the biggest average change in travel is adding 216km, and that’s because of the outlier teams, like Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, and Erie, in the far corners of the OHL. Average change to travel is about +70 kilometres for each team. Not even an hour of travel time at highway speeds. Two seasons, 10/11 (-1km) & 09/10 (-19km), saw average travel distance go down, and two more were negligible (15/16 – 32km, 13/14 – 27km).

Look at 14/15:


There was barely a change, only slight shuffle at the very top and very bottom, so we may not be looking at drastic change each year either.

The playoffs are when we want to watch the best teams play as long as they can, and this format gives them that opportunity, and makes the playoffs more legitimate than seeing two of the best teams knock each other out in the first or second round.

It also gives a shot at an underdog an even better story, lowly #16 overtaking the #1, 2, AND 3 seeds on their way to the finals? Yeah that’s a damn good story to follow.

To me, this is the best way to move forward for the OHL. Ditch the four divisions and move to two conferences and seed the playoffs #1-16. No need to do some fancy gymnastics to keep the 4 divisions equal in rivalries and distance, no need to worry about the best teams getting the short straw in playoff seeding.

Next year’s schedule is already out, but there’s still time to tweak some things.



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