The National Hockey League has had 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1980. As a strong supporter of the status quo, and no change, I think it is critical we see a continuation of 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Yes, a genuine argument could be made that now is the time to consider an expanded playoff format. Why? Well in the Eastern Conference this season, there literally has not been an important game in the last several weeks. We have known for a while the eight teams that will be battling for the Stanley Cup. They are the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.
However this season is an anomaly. Normally, there are exciting playoff races down the stretch. In the Western Conference, it was significantly more challenging. The Dallas Stars clinched a playoff spot just last night by the fact the Vegas Golden Knights could not beat the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout, and the fact the Stars collected a point by reaching extra time against the Arizona Coyotes.
The real reason why the NHL playoff format should not expand is because of the argument that more is not necessarily better. Let’s take a look at the ridiculous National Basketball Association play-in tournament as a primary example. Raise your hand if you think the San Antonio Spurs deserved to play an extra game this season. At 34 wins and 48 losses, the Spurs did not deserve to participate. They were a bad regular season team, and it would not surprise me whatsoever if Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich would agree.
It should be a privilege and prestige for teams to qualify for the playoffs. By expanding the format, making the Stanley Cup playoffs becomes significantly less prestigious.