Adding teams to the NHL playoff picture is a terrible idea…

lockout_s

On December 30, it was reported that the National Hockey League was toying with the idea of adding teams to the playoff format.

Then, three days later, former NHLer and current Rogers Sportsnet panelist Nick Kypreos tweeted the same thing, further validating the rumor.

Just when you thought the lockout couldn’t make the game look any worse, along comes this cockamamie idea.

Look, I understand that the league wants more teams involved in the Stanley Cup tournament because they fear the lockout has done some PR damage (ya think?). The thought being that, more teams equals more fans. And once said fans get back to the rink, they’ll remember why they fell in love with the game in the first place. The sad part? The NHLPA probably wouldn’t mind this either because that would mean more players with a yearly chance to win the elusive chalice.

Unfortunately, the fan — who doesn’t get a vote — is left with a watered down product and a bunch of undeserved teams playing well into April.

The NHL season is already long enough. It’s the longest in American pro sports, actually. From training camp to the Stanley Cup Finals, an NHL season is roughly 9 1/2 months long. Do we really want to make it 10?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

In 1990, the NHL consisted of 21 teams. Only five — that’s right, five — failed to make the playoffs. In other words, 76% of the league went to the dance. It must have been pretty hard to take a league seriously when a 28-43-9 Vancouver Canucks team (and four other clubs with losing records) were considered good enough to make the playoffs. Logical fans must have been asking, “Why even play a regular season?”

But then the first round of expansion happened. San Jose in 1991, Ottawa and Tampa in 1992 and finally Anaheim and Florida in 1993. All of sudden, that 76% decreased to a more respectable 62%. And after the most recent wave of expansion from 1998-2000, 53% of the clubs earn a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup.

In short, everyone “average” and “above average” gets in and everyone who isn’t doesn’t. The perfect balance.

But now the league reportedly wants to add more teams to the tournament. If they want to change the playoff format they should look at division winners and their automatic berth into the top three in the conference.

Using last year as a prime example, the Florida Panthers finished with 94 points in the standings, barely enough to get into the playoffs (Washington and Buffalo rounded out the East with 92). Yet they “earned” home ice advantage because they beat up on a weak Southeast Division. The Philadelphia Flyers amassed 103 points, the fourth most in the East, yet were forced to start the playoffs on the road thanks to Florida being granted the third spot over the real third-best team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers went 47-26-9 and did so despite playing in the brutal Atlantic. Pretty sure they earned home ice.

Personally, I think there should only be two rewards for winning your division: you get to hang a Division Championship banner and you’re guaranteed a playoff spot. That’s it. Home ice advantage just for winning your division is a joke. A weaker group of teams shouldn’t be rewarded for being weak.

But I digress.

My hope is that, for once, the NHL and NHLPA do what’s right for the game and keep the playoff format the way it is. The last thing hockey needs is its premier league to have more gimmicks. We already have a way for a losing team to get points and a skills competition (the shootout) deciding the winner of a full hockey game. Do we really need a gimmicky playoff too?