The worst-kept secret in hockey got made official earlier this week. The NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously voted in favour of Seattle joining the league for the 2021-22 season.
I don’t think we need to dive into talking about the expansion draft just yet. A lot is going to change between now and June 2021 in regards to players moving around and we have no idea who’s going to be here and who’s going to be gone by that point. A more interesting point of discussion right now, I think, is how the league should organize itself with a 32nd team in the mix.
As of right now, the league is keeping everything the same. They’re sliding the Arizona Coyotes into the Central Division and putting the Seattle team in the Pacific Division. The playoffs will also remain the same, with the top three teams earning playoff spots and two wild cards teams from either division also making the playoffs.
This playoff format is controversial. While you can’t argue it does a great job of forcing geographical rivalries as the same teams are frequently meeting each other in the playoffs, it also creates the possibility of top teams facing each other in the first round. For example, look at the Atlantic Division right now. Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Buffalo are all towards the top of the league and two of them are going to have to face each other in the first round.
With 32 teams in the fold, the NHL has a chance to mix up the way the playoffs are formatted. I think the NFL does it right. They have eight divisions, the winner of each division earns a playoff spot, two teams per conference earn wild card seeds, and the top two teams in each conference get byes to the second round.
If the NHL went to an NFL-style eight-division league, we could see something like…
- Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Seattle
- Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Vegas
- Colorado, Dallas, Arizona (Houston..?), St. Louis
- Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit
- Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston
- Buffalo, New York Islanders and Rangers, New Jersey
- Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington
- Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Nashville
What say you, Nation? How do you think the NHL should look wit 32 teams? Are the divisions and the playoffs good as they are right now?