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Expand The Playoffs Permanently?

from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,

It would be hard to argue at this point that any of the teams added to make up this year’s group of 24 were substandard or didn’t belong. Teams are bunched closer than ever in the salary-cap era, and based on what we’ve seen in this unprecedented situation, the difference between teams in the middle third of the league and the bottom third may not be as great as some believe.

The Vegas Golden Knights certainly demonstrated that it’s possible to start from scratch and immediately be one of the NHL’s best teams, a standard the Seattle Kraken will be expected to meet when they begin play in 2021-22.

Most hockey fans prefer playoff competition over regular-season play and find the latter far more meaningful and entertaining. Moreover, keeping more teams involved in the fight for a playoff berth creates more interest in more markets....

Truly, anything is possible now that the NHL has busted through the 16-team barrier without a negative vibe.

For so long, the league has been wedded to the philosophy that the regular season must be a marathon elimination competition that sends about half of the teams home before the Cup tournament begins. But if playoff games generate more profitable gates and TV ratings, not to mention enthusiasm for the sport in more cities, perhaps these playoffs will lead to a larger rethink about the way in which the NHL could structure its games and competitions.


Filed in: NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink


TreKronor's avatar

It would be hard to argue at this point that any of the teams added to make up this year’s group of 24 were substandard or didn’t belong.

Not really, though I know the logic here is to give the Leafs more credit than they deserve….

Posted by TreKronor on 08/10/20 at 08:56 AM ET


NO. NO. NO. NO. No. How many votes do I get again?

16 teams is plenty in the playoffs.

Of course I prefer playoffs over regular season play but that doesn’t mean I want the regular season watered-down or to reward those teams that play horrible during the regular season. Losing 4 times to this year’s Detroit Red Wings should not be rewarded. I’m looking at you Montreal.

It sickens me that Edmonton, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and Toronto now have a pretty decent shot at the #1 seed. Maybe I should hope Edmonton wins it again so that fascicle nature of the lottery can be exposed.

Posted by evileye on 08/10/20 at 10:10 AM ET


At the expense of an already too long and too late regular season? Sure, but limit the lottery to non-tournament teams moving forward.

Posted by Unhealthy Scratch on 08/10/20 at 10:36 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

No way,  what’s the point of the regular season? 24 of 32 teams? Come on. Teams have 82 games to prove they belong, they don’t need another 5 game teaser.  7 game hard fought series.

It sickens me that Edmonton, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and Toronto now have a pretty decent shot at the #1 seed. Maybe I should hope Edmonton wins it again so that fascicle nature of the lottery can be exposed.

Posted by evileye on 08/10/20 at 10:10 AM ET

200% Bettman and the NHL are a joke.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from YzerGod's pixie dust fueled bandwagon on 08/10/20 at 11:12 AM ET


If it meant a slightly shortened season, and more meaningful games being played, I’d be interested. There are a lot of teams that ice their lineups once they have secured their spot, or conversely, do so to affect their draft position. So, there are a lot of games at the end of the season that are unbearable to watch. I’d rather see high intensity, high stakes hockey start sooner. I think the season could easily be scaled back to the 76 games it used to be and then the extra time could be dedicated to the qualifying rounds. I will say that I stopped paying attention to the round robin games, and having not followed the press releases regarding return to play, it took more than a moment to understand what was going on.
And the separate issue of how the draft lottery was determined certainly would have to be addressed. These teams getting a shot at an NHL ready player seems like an injustice to the teams that didn’t qualify.

Posted by tbuhg on 08/10/20 at 12:16 PM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

Yes please, if it’s a shorter regular season.  The play-in tournament was fun as hell to watch.  Usually by the tail end of the season I take a break from watching games because often so little matters.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Somewhere West of Detroit on 08/10/20 at 01:45 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

This years So called Playoffs and the Draft was induced by a Virus.  The Virus is called “Buttman Brain Fart”

I did try to watch but kept seeing and hearing Simpson and “The New Blond” Hughson of Sportsnet 4356. Hughson after another loss, “The game was won by a fluky goal”, the 2nd goal not mentioned, Toronto scores ZERO goals, not mentioned, Toronto was the Favorite team, Really??

Bettman and others wanted Leafs to be The Stanley Cup Chumps.

Everything about Buttman’s retarded plan for Draft and Playoffs was/is really hard to believe.

Once is really too much and never repeat this BS (Made for Networks) again

This was really a Circus, in my opinion..Never Again Please!

Will the Laffs get the #1 draft???  I will be watching the History Channel as I refuse to go through the pain and agony, again

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 08/10/20 at 01:59 PM ET


I don’t agree with Cox here, but at least there is some precedent. Let’s look at playoff expansions since the O6 era.

- During the O6 era 4 out of 6 (67%) made the playoffs.
- From 1968-1970, 8 out of 12 (67%) made the playoffs.
- From 1975-1978, 12 out of 18 (67%) made the playoffs.
- In 1979, 12 out of 17 (71%) made the playoffs.
- From 1980-1991, 16 out of 21 (76%) made the playoffs

Since then, the league has added 11 more teams (including Seattle) but stayed at 16 playoff teams, dropping the make/miss rate from 76% to 50% (presuming the playoffs do not expand permanently before Seattle’s debut season).

24 out of 32 teams making the playoffs would be 75% of teams, which is actually slightly less than what it was in the 1980s.

Now, me personally, I like a smaller playoff. There’s so much parity in the NHL these days and hockey is such an inherently luck-driven game over small samples (e.g., a 7-game series) that expanding the playoffs only makes the game fundamentally more random and unfair. I would rather see the playoffs cut back to 12 or even 8 teams instead of expand from 16 to 24, because I think the regular season should actually mean something and I want to see the actual best teams playing for the title and not mediocre teams fluking into the finals every other year.

Certainly this year it’s been great fun to see the chaos, but only because my team is so incredibly crappy that they couldn’t even make the top 24. If you’re a fan of a team that’s actually legitimately good, it’s infuriating. Especially since there’s a lot more competitive balance now then there was in the 1980s. Going to 24 out of 32 in the current era really does make the regular season almost completely meaningless. If Montreal can get in, winning less than 44% of their games, there’s really not much reason to care about anything that happens between October and April.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 08/10/20 at 02:05 PM ET

Steeb's avatar

My question is, if there is a play-in round going forward, does it involve the 5-12 in each conference every year? If they do that, are the 1-4 teams idle for a week+ while the other 8 teams play meaningful games? Are they going to do a round-robin for seeding again, thereby almost completely nullifying the results of the regular season? A team like Boston, who had the best reg season record by far, ended up 4th seed, bkz of 3 bad games (after a long layoff, which wouldn’t happen again, ideally).

Half the league in the playoffs every year is fine.

Posted by Steeb on 08/10/20 at 02:31 PM ET


I say give the top 8 a bye for a round then get into the bubble idea and allow the top 8 KHL teams and the NHL 9-16 teams do the qualifier and will see if those Ruskies can win the Coup de Stanley!

Posted by jhpcarrier97 on 08/10/20 at 09:16 PM ET


Only if…

The season is shortened by at least 6 games

Play-in team losers lottery pick is negatively weighted

Play-in round remains best of 5

Posted by dwgs on 08/11/20 at 09:17 AM ET

Alan's avatar

If you’re going to change the format of the playoffs to add eight more teams to the potential mix, change the draft lottery to ensure that any team qualifying for said playoff round can’t pick above 8th overall. There’s no rational explanation whatsoever that a team that qualified for the qualifiers gets to pick first overall.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 08/11/20 at 07:48 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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