It looks like the 24-team playoff field will be a one-time thing.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cutting the regular season short, the NHL compensated by adding eight more teams and a five-game play-in round to the playoffs. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the league is not expected to maintain this change to the format moving forward.
“We’ve all enjoyed watching this and I was hoping it would create the momentum for the possibility of seeing this in the future… but this is not looking like it’s going to happen,” Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman said on Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “There doesn’t appear to be the momentum for it and it doesn’t look it’s something that’s going to be tacked on to future NHL seasons.”
While Friedman says “we’ve all enjoyed watching this,” I can think of a handful of fans, namely from Edmonton and Pittsburgh, who probably don’t feel the same way.
The five-game play-in round certainly added a level of drama and excitement to the playoffs that we haven’t seen before, but having 24 teams (which is roughly 75 percent of the league) make it to the big dance really bogs down the importance of the regular season.
I wonder if there could be a way for the NHL to implement some kind of play-in round to add to the playoffs without going as far as adding eight more teams to the fold. Maybe they could have a wild-card round where the No. 8 team plays the No. 11 team and the No. 9 team plays the No. 10 team in a short three-game series to move on to the first round.
That would give the league this quick, exciting drama while not entirely watering down the reason you’re playing 82 games in the regular season.