Last year, both Southern California NHL teams made the playoffs. The Ducks were the 4th seed, believe it or not. What a difference a year makes. Though the Kings went back and forth between being 3rd, 7th, 8th, and even out of the playoffs in the last couple weeks of the regular season, they ended in 8th. By points, the three Pacific teams who made this year’s NHL playoffs are 6th – 8th place. I’ve always been a believer in giving home ice advantage to the teams who do the best, not automatically assigning the top three seed positions to the winners of each division in the two conferences. If that were the case, none of the Pacific teams would start out with home ice advantage. Since it’s not, the Phoenix Coyotes (below the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks in points) will have home ice advantage to start the playoffs. (As a side note, the Florida Panthers are in the same position in the East.)
The Anaheim Ducks were pretty clearly out of the playoffs early on this year. They replaced their coach with the hopes that it would help them, but I really don’t think they’ll be able to do much until they replace their general manager and no GM in his right mind would tell the owners of a team to fire him, so I’m guessing Murray bought himself a bit of time by blaming Randy Carlyle. Of course, the team’s poor performance for the rest of the season seems like a very good argument that Carlyle was not the problem
On paper, the Los Angeles Kings are a very strong team. They were expected to be pretty dominant this season and go far in the playoffs. They had a rough year and didn’t do nearly as well as expected. Some will argue that’s due to the strength of the Pacific Division, but I think the Atlantic Division (with four teams in the playoffs) in the East is a good argument against that. The Atlantic Division has almost all strong teams. Four out of the five teams will be in the playoffs. If you ranked by points instead of giving the division leaders the 2nd and 3rd spots, the Atlantic Division would be ranked 1-4 in the east and they’d all have home ice advantage. Considering the fact that the Pacific teams are the lowest in points, they really don’t seem as strong overall.
Of course, none of that matters as the playoffs start later this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the Kings perform in the playoffs this year. They’ve definitely got the advantage of having to fight to get into the playoffs, but they ended with a couple of losses in SO/OT against the Sharks and have to face Vancouver, who knocked them out of the playoffs two years ago and often seems to have their number. The schedule will be released 10am Pacific time on Sunday.
Enjoy the playoffs!