Report: NHL planning controversial change to Stanley Cup playoff format

Hockey traditionalists are sure to hate this. Why does the NHL feel the need to keep changing things?

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No matter whether you’re a diehard or casual hockey fan, there’s one thing all hockey fans can agree on: The NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs is intense. With the Cup on the line everything gets a little more meaningful. The games are tighter, the hits are nastier, the goals are bigger and winning and losing means everything.

Currently just 16 of the NHL’s 31 teams qualify for the post-season, but if the NHL and its board of governor’s has their way, there could be more teams vying for the Stanley Cup come playoff time next season. According to a report from The Athletic’s Craig Custance, many NHL GM’s are in favor of expanding the amount of teams who qualify for the postseason.

“(I’m) open to exploring change,” responded one GM.

How open? And how many GM’s are behind this push?“ Lots,” replied one GM to Custance via email said in an e-mail. “I’m open to a lot of different structures, including expanding the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs.”

In fact, the idea has gained so much steam that it was on the agenda at the NHL’s annual meetings this past weekend in Tampa Bay. So, what do the players think? Before speaking with some players at the All-Star Game this past weekend, Custance threw out the possibility of a 1-16 playoff ranking with no regard for conferences or divisions. The players seemed to like the idea.

“That’d be cool,” said Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon. “Even the one versus eight — I like the old format better. It’s kind of weird, the new one.”

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” Josh Bailey of the New York Islanders said. “I see what they’re doing with the way things are now, you want to get those rivalry games and stuff like that. If you ran into a situation where you had Florida playing Vancouver in the first round, all the travel would be unfair.”

West coast teams like the San Jose Sharks aren’t willing to listen to any travel concerns, however.

“We kind of get screwed every year anyways (with travel),” Sharks All-Star Brent Burns said. “It’s not going to be harder for us, really. … What if San Jose is No. 1 and Toronto is 16? We’ve got to play them? That’d be kind of cool.”