Earlier this month, Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet got heads spinning with news that the NHL and the NHLPA have discussed independently the notion of expanding the Stanley Cup Playoffs by four teams, going from 16 to 20 teams.
Initially, the thought was the NHL would expand the playoffs when it realigns its teams into four divisions, with a four seed and a five seed featured in a “play-in” series. But as the lockout continued, there was speculation that the playoffs could be expanded for the 2013 season. Via Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun earlier this month:
That would increase the playoff pool to 20 teams and would offer the opportunity to create more fan interest in the post-season this year. The idea of having 66% of the teams make the playoffs doesn't sit well with some, but it's the most exciting time of the year.
"They have to look at ways to create more revenues because the damage from this lockout is going to be big," said a league executive speaking on the condition of anonymity Wednesday. "It's going to mean more races in the final weeks of the year. It's a positive."
An expanded postseason would be a nice, bright shiny thing that can distract many fans from their lockout anger and/or cure their apathy. It would be parity on steroids, with every team in the hunt in a 48-game schedule.
So will it happen for 2013?
No, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who told Puck Daddy on Monday via email:
“No expansion of the Playoffs being contemplated for this year (and I don't think any is being contemplated beyond this year either). “
Again, it’s hard to imagine the NHL and the NHLPA continuing to leave that money on the table if the fans were open to it – and based on our feedback, more are open to it then previously anticipated. But Daly said not for this year, and that’s the important info.