Commissioner Bettman says NHL has no interest in expanding playoffs

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman. (Stephen B. Morton/AP)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

At least that’s what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman thinks about the league’s current playoff structure.

Bettman told media in Edmonton on Wednesday that the league has no interest in expanding its playoff format to include more teams or games, unlike the NBA’s play-in tournament that was implemented in the 2020-21 season or MLB expanding its post-season to include 12 teams and an extra round of three-game series this year.

From once including 16 of 21 total teams in the league’s post-season, Bettman believes the NHL’s current 16 of 32 ratio creates the best situation for both regular season and playoff games.

“The reason this is as good as it is is because the regular season and playoffs are meaningful,” said Bettman. “Having half of our teams eligible I think is the right balance, I think it creates great competition throughout the regular season. It makes the games most meaningful and there’s nothing like our playoff tournament, the Stanley Cup is the hardest to win, and there’s nothing in any sport like our first round.”

The NHL’s commissioner of nearly 30 years isn’t interested in altering anything simply for the sake of change.

“Listen, I love the fact that people are so passionate about the game that there’s always a debate about what we can change, but change for the sake of change, or change because somebody else is doing it differently, under the right circumstance can make sense, but for us right now, we like where we are. We think the game’s in really good shape,” said Bettman.

The commissioner spoke on a number of other topics, including post-season officiating.

Penalties aren’t called differently in the post-season, he said.

“The standard is the standard. It’s not a regular-season standard, it’s not a playoff standard,” Bettman said. We continue … to reinforce to the officials, ‘We want you to call the NHL standard.’ And that standard is to reinforce speed and skill and the officials are doing that.”

Bettman also discussed the state of the league coming out of COVID-19, saying the NHL had to be agile to weather the pandemic.

The league has made a number of adjustments over the past two seasons, he said, from rearranging divisions last year to avoid border closures to not sending players to the Olympics after outbreaks forced more than 100 games to be rescheduled.

“Ultimately, I think the ultimate team sport engaged in the ultimate team effort,” Bettman said. “The co-operation, the professionalism of the Players’ Association and the players, the way our teams responded, the response from ownership, the resources that were committed — all of it was part of the effort to get through COVID. And I think as we all seek normalcy, we’re just about there.”

– With files from the Canadian Press

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