Now that the playoffs are over and the champion has been crowned it might be time to revisit the playoff format. Last year and the year before (aka, the 2004 and 2005 seasons) there where only a total of three playoff games — one division title game for each division, East and West, and the Champions Cup game.
This year, the 2006 season, since there were more teams the playoff format differed. There were two division playoff games for each division and the Champions Cup game. The format was similar to a hockey style playoff where the top ranked team played the fourth place team and the second and third placed teams played each other. Winners from those games would meet for the division title game. The division champions would then be off to the Champions Cup.
The question the league has to ask is, was this format successful? To a degree it was. I don’t mean to play it down by that statement because I believe this years lacrosse playoffs were quite successful but there is always room for improvement.
Obviously the 2006 playoff format catered more easily to the larger divisions. With more teams in each division a single, top team versus second team playoff game wouldn’t have been enough. That would have cut two more teams out of the playoff run and probably given rise to a fair amount of fan outrage.
Another obvious benefit to this new playoff format is the potential for an additional game for all teams that make the cut. Where as in previous years there were only three playoff games, this year there were a total of seven. That’s four more games for lacrosse fans everywhere to enjoy.
What could the NLL improve on for next year? Most suggestions and thoughts are in the same camp, single elimination format isn’t enough. There are suggestions that the playoffs should be expanded to a best of three or best of five series.
That would be fantastic for fans as there would be even more games to watch. Unfortunately I’m not sure if it’s feasible for the league to do that yet. With more games would come increases salaries for players — which might mean higher ticket prices for fans — as well as additional scheduling difficulties. I’m all for a longer post season but the logistics need to be looked at first.
Obviously as the league grows — especially now that both Chicago and New York will be added to the roster — the playoffs will become an even higher concern. If there too many teams that don’t make the playoff cut fans will revolt. As with most sports, usually at least half of the teams are in the playoffs. With the two added teams in the NLL next year some changes will definitely be needed.
It will be exciting to see how the league plans to accommodate the expanded division size with next years schedule. Hopefully with a little more balance and a bit more foresight.