Well, there has to be some reward for winning your own division. If not the #1-3 seed, then what?
If your division's bad enough you can win it with 10 or more points less than the other division winners... Do you really deserve a reward?
I'm kind of see where you are coming from Jesse- winning in a weak division like the Southeast isn't really something that should classify you as an elite team. But I'm with Jeff on this one.
Look at the Northwest division for example. The top three teams, Minnesota, Colorado, and Calgary are only separated by a total of three points with one or two games left a piece. This isn't because the division is weak, it could possibly be the toughest division top to bottom in the NHL. All five teams are still very much in the playoff picture, at least three will make it, and very likely we could see four Northwest teams in the playoffs. And the fifth will likely be only a few points out of 8th. This is a very tough division to play in because you have to face four other playoff caliber teams in your division 32 times over the year. Because the division balances itself out so nicely it really makes it hard for any one Northwest team to dominate.
Then you have to look at the Central division. Detroit is a great team, I'll give them that, BUT they aren't the top team in the West despite the number 1 seed and the fact that they are currently leading the NHL in points (that honor would belong to San Jose). You have to look at who they play in their division. With the exception of Nashville, the other three clubs have been perennial losers for the last few years and can't compete with Detroit. Looking at that division there is no way Detroit should come up with much less than 50 points. So yeah the division champs in the Northwest may win the division with 10 points fewer than the other division leaders, but it isn't because they are just the best of the worst.
I think in order to balance the playoff picture out the division winners deserve some sort of benefit (other than just a playoff spot). And other than the #1-3 seeds there really isn't much else. I think that it really does help breed more excitement towards the end of the season, which is ultimately good for the sport. Division titles actually mean something and aren't just bragging rights. It really fuels a lot of the excitement in these late season divisional games when the title can be up for grabs on any given night.