New WHL playoff format long overdue

JEFFERSON HAGEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Finally the Western Hockey League is making sense.

After years of an antiquated divisional playoff format - once used by the NHL in the 1980s - they are finally changing their tune in time for the 2007-08 season. Just like the NHL has been doing for quite awhile now, the WHL will be going to the much-improved format of seeing the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.

This is excellent news for the brand new expansion Edmonton Oil Kings, who, if the playoff format had remained the same, would have been battling Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Kootenay for a spot in the playoffs in the ultra-tough Central Division.

And while those teams have some off years, their off years are finishing in the middle of the pack, unlike the franchises in the traditionally weak East Division.

Case in point: the Prince Albert Raiders made the playoffs last season with a record that was 12 games below .500.

But the Lethbridge Hurricanes missed the big dance even though they finished 11 points better in the standings. That, while battling against league champion Medicine Hat on a regular basis, too.

Hardly seems fair, but under the old system that happened more often than not.

This is not to imply Edmonton will make the playoffs in its first season - Everett and Chilliwack are the exception, not the rule - but the Oil Kings' chances just got a whole lot better.


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