With different start dates set around the league and no word about the BC division, playoffs are probably the last thing the WHL is thinking about.
Although the playoffs are months away, the league should start looking at their options. Today, we will look at one possible playoff scenario that the WHL could implement. Everything is subject to change, but this scenario may be the best option so the Ed Chynoweth Cup can be handed out in 2021.
What you need to know:
Before we dive into a debate about playoffs, the WHL has not formally announced any type of plans for a postseason. Each league is going to end on a different date so there may be a gap between the conclusion of the regular season and the start of the postseason. There is also the BC division issue where no start date for the regular season has been approved. Lastly, if we are looking at dates, the earliest the playoffs could start is mid-May. That being said, there is a scenario that could allow for playoffs that would benefit the league and its players.
WE ARE OFFICIALLY IN!
The Winterhawks are the first team in the WHL to clinch a playoff spot!
It's the 11th consecutive season the Winterhawks will compete for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. pic.twitter.com/1MU40rA4YB
— Portland Winterhawks (@pdxwinterhawks) February 5, 2020
Divisional playoffs are the best option available for the WHL. The top four teams from each division play a best-of-seven series until a divisional champion is crowned. The easiest way to do this is by having all playoff series start at the same time. This means there would be a delay between the end of the regular season and the start of playoffs for both Eastern Conferences.
Due to the shortened season, having wildcard games to determine the final seed in each division would provide additional revenue to the league. Four extra games mean more advertising revenue and more attention to the league. Having the play-in games to determine the final seeds also pushes teams to stay competitive the entire season. No trading away superstars because you are dead last in the division. Who knows, a fifth-place team could go on a cinderella run and win the championship.
US Divison playoffs:
In order to avoid issues later on in the playoffs, the best-case scenario is for the US teams to play their playoffs in Canada. It looks as though BC will be using a bubble format this season so the US joining the bubble once the playoffs start may be the best solution. The play-in game would be played in the US still, but as soon as all teams are known, they move up north. If the BC bubble is in Kelowna and Kamloops as previously reported, each division could use one city to run their playoffs from. Kelowna for BC and Kamloops for the US. This way, there is no two-week break between the playoffs ending and the champions tournament beginning.
The Ed Chynoweth Cup tournament:
Once we know the champions of all four divisions, the WHL Ed Chynoweth Cup Tournament can begin. The tournament would be a mirror image of the real Memorial Cup. Each team would play the three other divisional champions with the top team getting a bye to the finals. There would be a tie-breaker if needed to determine third place, semi-finals, and then the championship. The location best suited for this would be Kelowna as they were scheduled to host the Memorial Cup last season.
A great end to the season:
With uncertainty around the Memorial Cup, the players need something to play for. A tournament to determine the Ed Chynoweth Cup would be a great way to end the season. Players get one more shot at winning a championship and the league benefits from additional games. We may even be at a point where a limited number of fans can enter the arena. This season should have a champion. The Ed Chynoweth Cup deserves to be handed out in 2021.
For the first time since 1985, the Prince Albert Raiders are @TheWHL Champions!
— Prince Albert Raiders (@PARaidersHockey) May 14, 2019