Burnside: How would you reward the conference champs? Give them five home games in the first round? Let them choose their opponent? Actually, I think that might have some merit. How do you stand on the whole divisional alignment situation wherein you're going to have Carolina getting home ice for winning the Southeast Division, but likely ending up with a handful of fewer points than the sixth seed, whom the Canes will face in the first round?
The South(l)eastern division has been the butt of many jokes (some on this site) but they have produced two of the past three Stanley Cup champions. They may be easily the weakest division in hockey, but anything can happen.
Do not like the idea of 5 home games for a team. Doesn't seem right. Owners won't like it either, the chance of only getting 1 game of revenue from the playoffs.
But maybe the system needs a slight tweak. Instead of locking division winners in the top 3 seeds of the conference, why not just guarantee them home ice in the first round of the playoffs?
True standings right now:
1. Montreal 92
2. New Jersey 91
3. Pittsburgh 91
4. Ottawa 89
5. New York Rangers 87
6. Carolina 87
7. Boston 83
8. Philly 82
Those teams highlighted would be playing each other under the current system, with Carolina holding home ice as the #3 seed and those in front of them bumping down a notch.
In the system TST proposed (giving weak division winners a 4 seed), here's how matchups would look right now:
3/6: Pittsburgh/NY Rangers
That balances things out a little more. One could argue though under this system it might be more beneficial to be a #5 seed than a #3. But then again if the top seeds all hold, the #5 seed would have to play the #1 in the second round, so that argument doesn't hold water.
Make the divisional races mean something with a reward; home-ice in the first round. But guaranteeing a 3 seed is forcing uneven matchups. Teams that perform well in the regular season and kill division winners (like the losers of the Montreal-Ottawa race and the NJD-Pitt) deserve to be rewarded with not facing a similiar tough #5 seed, reward them too.