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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(FE): Expanding the NHL playoffs for 2021

When it comes to getting the 2021 NHL season up and running, the league and players are still working to figure out how to divvy up a revenue pie that seems to be shrinking by the day. One solution that I’ve seen pop up a few times over the past week or so has been to combine the shortened season we all expect with an expanded playoff format that would allow for additional TV money to trickle in while the players are unpaid in the postseason. In today’s WWYDW (Friday Edition), I’m asking all of you fine folks whether you like the idea of another year of expanding the playoffs if it means getting the show on the road sooner?

According to last week’s article from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the players are feeling “angry” and “betrayed” by the two proposals the league submitted as potential solutions to get the 2021 season underway. In these two options, the NHL reportedly requested increased escrow rates over the final three seasons of the newly signed Collective Bargaining Agreement extension while also increasing salary deferral for the 2021 season, causing a stalemate with both sides digging their heels in. These proposed changes come only four months after the NHL and the PA agreed to a CBA extension that tried to address the inevitable revenue shortfalls the owners will face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, over this last quarter, the Coronavirus hasn’t exactly slowed down at all and it’s starting to feel like the league and players will have to try and navigate a fanless start to the season if it hopes to get some games in, and that’s a huge problem for a league whose revenues are mostly gate-driven.

When Cam wrote about the gap between the NHL and its players’ association a couple of weeks ago, he compared the current situation to what happened in the MLB before their season got started.

“To me, this is somewhat reminiscent of Major League Baseball’s return-to-play negotiations back in April and May. The league repeatedly made low-ball offers that ultimately featured the players being asked to give up massive chunks of their already-agreed-upon contracts.

This dragged on for so long that the season ended up being 60 games (much shorter than the normal 162-game schedule) and the playoffs grew from 10 teams to 16 teams. This was advantageous to the owners because salaries were prorated from 162 games to 60 games and players aren’t paid in the playoffs so that added wild-card round helped offset lost revenue from the season.

With that in mind, I wonder if the league’s long-game here is to make offers to the players that they know they’ll reject in order to stall and ultimately come to a deal later on when they can do a 42-game season with expanded playoffs. Like with MLB, that would result in less expenditure (prorated player salaries during the season) and increased revenue (more playoff games).”

When the NHL and players signed the CBA extension and approved an expanded playoff format in late-May, it was expected that it would be a one-off occurrence and that the 2020-21 season would be as close to normal as possible, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s possible right now. Unlike the NBA and NFL, the National Hockey League doesn’t have a monstrous TV contract that will keep them afloat until fans are allowed back in the buildings and I wonder if a shortened season (say 42-48 games) in addition to another 24-team style tournament will be the compromise that both sides land on. Even though I’m still annoyed by the way the Oilers sucked the hind banana in their play-in round against the Blackhawks, I’d personally be okay with another year of expanded playoffs if it meant that we’d all be able to watch hockey again. But this article isn’t about what I think, it’s about what everyone reading this thinks and how you all believe this situation will play out.

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Maybe you think the NHL and players should keep negotiating until we get to a point where we’re able to have a normal-ish end to the season? Maybe you think expanding the playoffs is a good time and that the NHL should do it every year? Maybe you’ve got an idea in that big ol’ brain of yours that I could never even dream of?

So what say you, Nation? In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Friday Edition), I want to know whether you think the NHL should expand the playoffs as a means of increasing league revenue so that both sides can bridge the gap on what’s already been lost?  

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