I will be the first one to tell you that the NHL playoffs are arguably the best playoff games to watch in any of the major sports. The intensity of every game is hardly matched by any other playoff series across the board. However, there is such thing as having too many playoff games.
The system the NHL has now is working pretty well: three rounds of seven-game series among eight teams in each conference that lead up to the Stanley Cup Final, also a seven-game series. But, all this talk of potentially adding two more teams in each conference, bringing the number of teams in the playoffs to 20, is just too much. That would mean that two-thirds of the teams in the NHL would be in the playoffs. Even teams with a losing record would have a chance of making it. Teams like the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers would not be feeling the need to tank right now for a top draft pick, because a good run would put them in striking distance of a playoff spot within the new system.
I also think the way these playoffs would run is a bit absurd. The wild card teams would play in single-elimination games (the seven seed plays the 10 seed and the eight plays the nine), and then the playoffs would be back down to eight teams in each conference. One of the main reasons I like the NHL playoffs as opposed to the other sports is that they have long series that create mini rivalries and keep you on the edge of your seat. Not that a single-elimination game wouldn’t do that, but if it was a blowout it wouldn’t have the feel that a regular NHL playoff series would.
And, even though the idea of seeing single-elimination games in the NHL playoffs sounds extremely intense, placing two extra teams in the playoffs to create these games is not the way to do it.
It will make the NHL money, and fans of middle-of-the-road teams will be glad to see their teams in playoff games, but the NHL is not realistically adding much to the playoffs. People might be more inclined to like the twenty-team playoff if there was another system that would involve a playoff series of even three games, but the NHL should not think about this idea until it increases the amount of teams in the league.
Even then, with four extra teams in the league, a majority would still end up in the playoffs. I think there are enough playoff teams with 16, regardless of how many teams are in the league.
The NHL playoffs are extremely exciting to watch as they are right now, and there is no need to change them. Much like the Stadium Series has taken away the uniqueness of the Winter Classic, nine and 10 seeds in the playoffs with single-elimination games would alter the feeling of the start of the playoffs and might turn more people away from watching them. Who would want to see the Philadelphia Flyers potentially face off against the Montreal Canadiens if they win their play-in game? Lopsided series would be more likely and take away from the overall intensity of the race to the Cup — and no fan wants that.
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