If you ask any AHL fan worth their salt about what they’d like changed in their beloved league, I could almost guarantee that a fair majority would say they want the crossover rule eliminated. This rule is a bane to many fans, especially those who get the short end of the stick in their division, as Crunch fans did for a few years. Although now we can technically reap the benefits of the crossover rule, I’m still not sure it should exist.
However, the recent performance of a certain AHL team has me questioning if maybe, just maybe, the crossover rule can be justified.
For those of you unfamiliar with the rather stupid way the AHL postseason goes, I’m going to try to be as clear as possible here. For those of you who know how this works, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs.
The AHL is broken up into two conferences, with two divisions in each conference. Playoffs are based on divisional standings, not conference standing. The first four teams in each division make the playoffs.
Sounds simple, right?
But it isn’t. Here’s why:
The AHL now has 30 teams. It doesn’t take a math wiz to know that 30 teams cannot be divided among four divisions evenly. To fix this, the league decided that each conference contain one division with 7 teams and one division with 8 teams. So, the Western Conference has the North Division with 7 teams and the West Division with 8, while the Eastern Conference has the Atlantic Division with 7 teams and the East Division with 8 teams.
Now, the problem this set up clearly created was that the two divisions with 8 teams has more competition for the first 4 slots than those with 7 teams. The league’s solution was to put into place a crossover rule to make things “fair.”
This rule says that if the 5th place team in the divisions with 8 teams–the East and the West–has more points than the 4th place team in the divisions with 7 teams–the North and the Atlantic–then that 5th place team can crossover to the other division. In doing so, they kick that 4th place team out of their rightful spot in the playoffs. This rule came into play twice this year.
The Eastern Conference standings were as follows:
Portland: 103 points
In this instance, the 5th place team in the East, Bingo, had more points than 4th place Worcester in the Atlantic. So, they got to crossover into the Atlantic division and play in their playoff series, while the Sharks got sent home crying.
In the West Conference, things looked rather similar:
Lake Erie: 96
Oklahoma City: 91
Again, the 5th place team in the West, OK City, had more points than 4th place Abbotsford in the North. So, they got to crossover into the North division and play in their playoff series, while Abbotsford got to hit the golf courses in April.
You can see, of course, why many fans feel this is a rather unfair way to do things. I’m not sure about the Western Conference, but teams in the divisions of the Eastern Conference barely play each other. It’s very hard when you’re not only worrying about point totals in your own division, but also about point totals in the other division. It’s made even more complicated when that division contains teams you rarely play and therefore can’t build up points on by winning games against them. There’s very little you can do to control your own fate in these situations, and that would make any fan nervous.
However, what happens when it becomes clear that this hated rule alone has allowed a team to show that it’s actually deserving of the Calder Cup? Could that situation serve as justification for a rule the league had to create in order to make this messy situation acceptable?
There are four teams left in the race for the Cup: Houston, Hamilton, Charlotte, and Bingo. The Baby Sens are currently enjoying a 2-0 series lead against Charlotte, and might make it 3-0 after tonight’s tilt. (They’re currently leading 3-1 at the second intermission) They’re the team that shouldn’t have made the playoffs and, yet, did. They’re the underdogs, so to speak. They’re the team that had luck on its side. They’re the team that’s only in the playoffs because of one single rule.
Is their success justification for this rule? Clearly, they’re a good team. They pushed their way through the first two series, winning the first round in 7 games and the second in 6. They’ve been competitive, that’s for sure, and have shown that they deserve to be occupying their place in the playoffs.
How do you all feel about this rule? Have you always liked it, or have you always thought it bogus? Has Bingo’s performance changed your mind at all?