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Three crazy ways to fix the CFL’s competitive imbalance

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In 2017, for the fourth time in the last six years, a Western team crossed over into the East side of the playoff bracket.

This time, it was the Saskatchewan Roughriders who made the trek across the country in the hopes of becoming the first crossover team to reach the Grey Cup. They failed when they lost to the Toronto Argonauts in the East Final, but it was another season of dominance by the West over the East.

With this continuing to happen year after year, it has led to renewed calls for the CFL to change not only its playoff structure — going to a 1-to-6 format over the current one — but also renewed calls for a one-division CFL. It is an argument that has existed for many years and likely will for many more.

But making the CFL one division or altering the seeding process is boring. That’s the easy thing to do, and I think it is more fun to envision the CFL going a little nutty if they decide to change the way the league or the playoffs are structured.

So with that, here are three crazy ideas to fix the CFL’s current divisional competitive imbalance.

Beast and Least

So how about this for a change, every year the CFL does divisional realignment, similar to European soccer relegation, by keeping the top five teams from the previous year in one division and the bottom four teams in another. Based on the final standings of 2017, the 2018 divisions, named Beast and Least, would look like this:

Beast
Calgary
Winnipeg
Edmonton
Saskatchewan
Toronto

Least
Ottawa
B.C.
Hamilton
Montreal

So not much would change, expect Toronto and B.C. would switch places. The concept would be pretty crazy, but the execution would, admittedly, leave a bit to desired and might not change things as drastically as it could.

So let’s move on to second crazy idea.

Yearly realignment, but with a twist

This takes the above concept and alters it slightly. Instead of relegating and promoting teams, we take the nine teams and split them odd and even based on their order of finish the year before. Again, using this year’s final standings as a template, the new divisions would be:

Division 1
Calgary
Edmonton
Toronto
B.C.
Montreal

Division 2
Winnipeg
Saskatchewan
Ottawa
Hamilton

Now this shakes things up with Toronto and Montreal essentially joining the West and Winnipeg and Saskatchewan becoming the top dogs in the East. And each year, depending on order of finish, we could see some major shakeups. It could also lead to some crazy, never-before-seen, Grey Cup matchups.

Now on to the third idea, which is probably the least crazy, so maybe it could actually get done.

More interdivisional games

The CFL schedule is weird, and not until a 10th team joins the league will it be able to make more sense — and no, I don’t mean a completely balanced schedule of playing each team twice, because if that happens, then the idea of divisions is meaningless anyway, but I digress — so how about we get away from East teams playing more games against West opponents than their division rivals and move towards more games against their divisional counterparts.

As it stands, the East plays eight games against each other and 10 against the West. Let’s change that and have the East play three games against each divisional opponent, which would eliminate total-points tiebreakers and nine against the teams in the West. Yes, that would mean that every year one West team wouldn’t make the trek east or vice versa, but so be it.

I’m not a schedule maker, so I don’t know if this would cause problems for the hard working people that do make the CFL schedule, but it would be a way to slightly alter the competitive imbalance as divisional games would take on increased importance and maybe lead to the East getting their *ahem* stuff together.

I know all three of these plans are likely to be met with laughter, derision or both. But if the CFL wants to go a little nuts in changing the way things work and not just go the lazy one division or playoff reseeding route, here are three outside-the-box ideas that might just be crazy enough to work.

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About the author

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

By Josh Smith

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