Fans have said it for years now: the National Hockey League's playoff format is heavily flawed. There, we said it. And it seems now that we are not the only ones... NHL insider Pierre LeBrun has just revealed in this morning's column in The Athletic that more than half of the general managers around the NHL would like to see a change in the playoff format. Let's give you the specifics...
At the beginning of the month, another step toward putting another NHL team in the Pacific Northwest after the group led by billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer submitted an expansion application to the league for a team in Seattle in February was underway. The Los Angeles-based Oak View Group revealed on Twitter that it reached its initial goal of 10,000 deposits in 12 minutes, and finally received more than 25,000 deposits for season tickets through a ticket drive.
It seems more and more certain that Seattle will get its hockey club, the 32nd team in the league. It is so certain that now GMs are trying to combine the discussion of the 32nd team with the expansion of the playoff field.
“More playoff teams [equals] more fan bases with the pleasure of experiencing the playoffs [which equals] more revenue for owners/players to share [which equals] more meaningful games for national rights holders [which equals] more GM/head coaches who can say they made the playoffs and hopefully keep their jobs [less turnover],” a team executive said in a text message to LeBrun this week.
“Crazy that 15 teams miss now, and will be 16 when expansion happens again,” added one NHL GM.
LeBrun decided to push his investigation further before making it public on Wednesday morning. As he explains, he texted "the 30 current NHL GMs Tuesday (no GM in Carolina) and asked this specific question via text message:
“Are you in favor of expanding the playoff format to include a 'play-in' round on each side involving let's say 7, 8, 9, 10? Best of three? Writing a column on it and trying to gauge interest …”
As of Tuesday night, 29 of them had responded. And it wasn’t close: 20 yes votes, six no votes, two GMs had mixed responses and one GM abstained."
Clearly, it is a discussion that should take place in a new board of governors meeting as more than half of the GMs are interested in expanding the format.
“It would be great to have more teams involved,” agreed another GM. “More buyers at the trade deadline. More trades.”
However, the discussion might not even take place since LeBrun reveals that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is not interested in expanding the 16-team playoff field.
“Not something we’re (or will be) considering,” Bettman said Tuesday via email to The Athletic. “Makes no sense — dilutes and extends the length of the season. Reduces, if not eliminates, exciting regular season races. Potentially punishes the seventh and eighth finishers. And finally, what we have has been terrific. Why fix it if it’s not broken!”
We can expect the owners to get involved and maybe try and sway the opinion of Bettman... But the most important opinion remains the ones of the fans... More teams mean longer postseason. Would it affect the draft? The free agency?
So many questions, and for now, very little answers. But quite a lot of interest!