The NHL Doesn’t Need More Playoff Teams

Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup Playoffs

Montreal going on a deep playoff run seems to have sparked a debate as to whether or not the league should expand the playoffs to include more teams. The Habs finished the regular season 18th overall, and with 16 teams making the playoffs you could argue that some other teams were more deserving but ultimately missed the cut. Based on the overall league standings, the New York Rangers would have been the final team to make the playoffs, while the Dallas Stars finished in 17th. Both of those teams finished with 60 points, while Montreal had 59. Despite that, the Rangers actually missed the final playoff spot in their division by 11 points.

This miracle run that the Habs have been on (although it doesn’t look like it’s going to end well) has some people thinking that the league should expand the playoffs, allowing more teams to make the cut. While I’m sure the owners would love a better shot at making some playoff revenue, any fans of the NHL should absolutely not be pushing for more playoff teams. I can understand some people being upset that Montreal made the playoffs, while other teams were more deserving based on their regular season play. But that isn’t the biggest issue with the playoff format.

In my mind, the 16 playoff teams is the perfect amount. With Seattle joining the league beginning next season, the NHL is now up to 32 teams. This means that 50% of the teams in the league will be making the playoffs, and that seems pretty perfect if you ask me. Anything more than that starts to feel like we’re just handing out participation trophies and gold stars. In the NBA, 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs – although this year’s play-in tournament expanded that a little bit, but still only 16 teams truly qualified for the playoffs. The NFL just expanded their playoffs to include 14 of the 32 teams, but it had been 12 teams before that. Meanwhile, the MLB has only 10 of their 30 teams make the playoffs each year.

Instead of expanding the playoffs, I think the NHL should change their playoff format. Get rid of the divisional matchups that screws over at least one team in the playoffs every year, and seed teams 1-8 in each conference. Vegas and Colorado were the two best teams in the regular season this year, but because they played in the same division only one of them can make it past the second round? Stupid. The format wasn’t great before, since the top three seeds all went to the division winners, but it was a whole lot better than the way things are right now.

Besides, do we really want to make the regular season have less meaning? If you let everyone in the playoffs, what’s the point of the 82 games that come before that? I know that at the end of the day, nobody really cares who wins the President’s Trophy. It’s all about the Stanley Cup, and it should be, but you still need to earn your chance to be there. There isn’t really a perfect format for the regular season, because the different divisions aren’t always on the same level. Next year Vegas is set to play against LA, Anaheim, San Jose, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Seattle. Basically anything less than 1st place there is going to be disappointing, and it also means that some pretty below average teams are going to be in the playoffs once again. The 1-8 seeding would make things more balanced in the Western Conference, but it’s not going to stop Vegas from beating up on the other teams in their division. But every sport has this problem. In the NBA, there are usually some pretty bad teams sneaking into the playoffs at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. In the NFL, the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South a few years back with a 7-8-1 record, and the NFC East is usually pretty bad all around.

The NHL’s playoff format needs some work, but adding more teams into the mix seems like just covering up the issue with a bandaid rather than actually solving it.

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