In 2013, the NHL adopted a new playoff format in which the top three teams of each division qualify for the postseason while two wild card teams, regardless of division, also qualify.
Officially, the NHL has said this change from the old 1-through-8 format was made to stress rivalries. Unofficially, change was made to provide a greater chance of more television-friendly matchups and to reduce travel in the Western Conference.
Recently, five members of the Penguins who spent parts of their careers with Western Conference teams were asked about the format.
What's your opinion of the current playoff format?
David Perron (right), left winger (Blues, Oilers) - It seems like there's a lot of possibilities on what teams you can face. It's defintely nice. Most of it was [in the Western Conference]. One year in St. Louis, we played San Jose then we played [Los Angeles]. If we had beaten them, we would have to play Phoenix I think. That's three teams that on the West Coast there. Three and a half-, four-hour flight every time. If it goes down to Game 7, it's a lot of travel. I think it's nice mostly for the [Western Conference]. A lot less travel as far as far as playoffs go.
Ian Cole, defenseman (Blues) - It was kind of confusing at first and then once you go through it or are a part of it for a short period of time, you kind of have a better idea of how it works. I think it's interesting to do division rivals for the most part. Obviously, you build up a lot of animosity playing them multiple times during the year and then continue to play them in the playoffs. That ramps it up.
Nick Spaling (right), left winger (Predators) - "It's a little different set up but at the end of the day, I don't know if it's a huge difference maker. It might eliminate one team or something differently but I don't see a huge change in it. You play your division. I don't mind it."
Ben Lovejoy, defenseman (Ducks) - "As a player, I think it would be nice to have a little variety. As a fan, I think it's great to see some of these rivalries come through in the playoffs. I know for us last year, it didn't work out because we had to face [Los Angeles in the second round] but in 20 years, that matchup had never happened. Because of the format, it was able to happen. I think that's good for the game."
Mike Johnston, coach (Canucks, Kings) - "I know in the [Western Hockey League], they've adopted that format as well where they have wild card spots and they keep teams in their divisions. I think the theory there is that you get the rivalries within the division and you getting them playing off. But it's the wild card spot where you can switch divisions that becomes confusing for everybody when you look at it."
How much do you think it benefits Western Conference teams?
Perron - "The time change too affects you. If you have a three and a half-hour flight coming back from [Los Angeles] to St. Louis, you lose two hours. It's a five and a half-hour trip. Most times in the playoffs, you play every other day so Teams will sleep in after the game. Next day, they'll fly out. They'll get in at like 6:30 [p.m.] maybe and right back at it the next day. It's a lot different than if it's a Philadelphia or New Jersey game where they can be in their own bed at 11:30 [p.m.]."
Cole - "Yeah except that depending on the wild card, could be playing … let's say St. Louis finish first and the Kings sneak in somehow, they could be playing. I see what they're trying to do but it doesn't always necessarily work out like that all the time. That's part of it. You know that's going to be a part of it whatever the travel is. Obviously yes, you'd like to have the easier road not having to fly back and forth to California all the time."
Spaling - "It is nice to cut down on the travel when. Obviously when you're changing time zones and you got maybe four-hour flights. It is tough on teams to start out a first round like that. It isn't easy. It is nice to cut down travel and get a start on the playoffs a little bit closer to home."
Lovejoy (right) - "It makes such a difference for the Western teams. My first year in Anaheim, we had to play against Detroit and it was four hours. We went to Game 7 and we did that flight a whole bunch of times. Playoff hockey is hard enough. I think anything you can do to cut down on travel makes a huge difference on the body."
Johnston - "It was huge. We [the Canucks] played a playoff series against Detroit and that's a long way to go in a playoff series very early in the playoffs. It's a situation in the west where you're looking at a lot more travel in the playoffs. That four hour flight, four and half hour flight … those really add up when you play a playoff series, especially if it goes six or seven [games]."
(Photos: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images and Harry How/Getty Images)