Originally Posted by Har-Calgary
I love how two of those teams have to play each other in the first round even though it's complete BS for those teams involved.
It's always been that way, and often on purpose.
In 1967-68, the Leafs finished 5th in the East Division (Original Six teams) and missed the playoffs. They had more points than the 1st-place team in the West (expansion teams).
In 1987-88, every single team in the Patrick Division finished with a winning record – and this was before loser points! The Rangers and Penguins missed the playoffs with 82 and 81 points respectively. Meanwhile, in the Norris division, every team except Detroit had a losing record. The Leafs made the playoffs with 52 points.
The previous year, every team in the Norris had a losing record, but four of them still qualified for the playoffs.
Ever since the divisions were realigned by geography in 1981, the Norris had always been weak; that's why Harold Ballard insisted that the Leafs be put in the Norris, and not in the Adams with their traditional rival, Montreal. Since the Leafs sold out every game, more games against the Habs would not increase their profits. But making the playoffs with a bad team meant increased profits and decreased payroll. Because the Toronto market was so valuable, Ballard had the clout to rig the divisional setup the way he wanted it.
Even with the conference-wide playoff setup, this sort of thing still happened on a smaller scale. For years, the Western Conference was tougher than the East by a significant margin – inter-conference games were won by the Western team roughly 5 times out of 9. In 2009-10, Calgary (90 points), St. Louis (90), and Anaheim (89) all missed the playoffs. Philadelphia and Montreal not only made the playoffs with 88 points, those were the two teams that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
This year's Metropolitan Division is just one of those things. And it's worth noting that Columbus demanded
to be put in that division, because they wanted the easier travel schedule of the Eastern Conference. They asked to have Crosby and Ovechkin as divisional opponents. If they get bounced in the first round as a result, let them enjoy the fruits of their labours.