With the Stanley Cup Playoffs approaching, many are bringing up the current playoff format and why it may or may not be working. Gary Bettman and the NHL want rivalries reignited via division playoff battles. It may be the same number of teams making the playoffs, but we got the fancy new wild card options. Over the last few years, we had a strong idea of playoff matchups early in the season. There are options galore, so let’s explore should the NHL change the contentious playoff format.

Go Back to 1-8 Playoff Format

The easiest option is to admit this current format doesn’t work and move back to conference ranking 1 through 8. We would see slight adjustments from the 2013-14 season. Before the changes the 30 teams were separated by three divisions in each conference and those division winners would receive a top-three seed. Now it would be even easier with division champions irrelevant and just the top 8 teams in each conference ranked. In this format as of April 13th teams like Tampa Bay and Nashville would benefit from better matchups. It’s the easiest option to switch to, but the NHL would admit they were wrong.

Play-In Tournament Playoff Format

With the NBA implementing their play-in tournament in 2020, the heat has been on the NHL to update their playoff format. In the NBA, the 7 through 10 seeds battle it out in one-game matchups to determine the final two playoff spots. With pushback from Gary Bettman, it’s unlikely he would change to this format. If they were to change their minds would we see more likely a three-game series? They could also tinker with the format instead of directly copying the NBA. For example, they could have the 7 seed play the 10 seed and 8 face 9 to switch things up. It would add slightly more meaning to their wild card positions, but only time will tell if it’s a feasible option.

Unrealistic But Fun Options

We’ll fit two options in here because the NHL would not go for them just for a logistical sense. The 1 vs 16 format was introduced in the 1979-80 season and was only in place until the 1981-82 season. What the 1 vs 16 format would do now is open up many possible opponents. Besides contingency plans, we could see the New York Rangers have to play the Los Angeles Kings and travel coast to coast throughout a playoff series that isn’t the Stanley Cup Final. The final method is from the 2020 NHL Bubble including the qualifying round. In this format with all teams in two places, 24 teams made the playoffs. The qualifying round was a best-of-5 while the top 4 teams in each conference played each in games to decide seeding. If the league included 34 or more teams this could help.

Should The NHL Change The Contentious Playoff Format

Likely Conclusion

All these options would be money-making ventures for the NHL. Depending on how much Gary Bettman will bend will decide the amount of change made to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even if we want to shoot for the moon we should expect the bare minimum from the NHL. It’s hard to imagine the league will admit they were wrong with this project but that is probably too much to ask. With other ventures like expansion on the forefront, this may get pushed to the wayside. Until then we see another year of the divisional playoff format. A format that still succeeds in the pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Mug. Check out Area 51 Sports Network for all things Stanley Cup Playoffs.