I'll admit this post is quite self-serving. With the New York Islanders just outside the playoff picture, expanding the number of teams in the postseason would benefit the Isles. Assuming this was implemented immediately. Which isn't how the NHL operates. Change comes slowly in the NHL.
But I really agree with ESPN's Greg Wyshynski who brought up, again, specifically when you consider the context of the Islanders 2021-22 season. Like Greg wrote, how weird is it that half the league just doesn't get to play in the post-season.
On paper this honestly seems like a win-win for the players and the league, no?
New York Islanders: Is NHL playoff expansion a good idea?
With extra playoff games comes increased revenues for the teams. Playoff games are very well attended and attendance is the cash-cow of the NHL. The league draws an overwhelming majority of its revnue from having butts in seats, so to speak. That money comes back to the players in the form of Hockey-Related Revenue (HRR). It also makes the end of the season mean a bit more for just about everyone involved.
Now think of the current system. How many games just straight-up don't matter for teams who aren't bad enough to tank but not good enough to make the post-season down the stretch? Like the New York Islanders this year. Do games against Montreal or even Buffalo in the final month of the 2021-22 season matter? No. Of course, they don't. The players will play for professional pride and all, but will fans tune in?
We already saw ESPN drop two of the Islanders nationally televised games on the schedule for just that reason. There are more compelling games for fans to watch. They won't tune in for a team that gains nothing by winning or losing.
That would change with an expansion of the playoffs. Not to include everyone, but with the addition of two play-in games per division, as the NBA does. That expands the playoff field from 16 to 20 teams. Leaving only 12 teams out. Just over a third of the entire league is out (37.5%). That seems fair, no?
In this scenario, the Islanders and Blue Jackets would be "in" for the East, while the Golden Knights and Canucks get a chance for the West for the 2022 playoffs.
This would give a team like the Islanders who struggled with a tough start to the year with a franchise-record road trip followed by a COVID hit that wasn't properly managed by the league a chance to make the postseason. In this scenario, they get a chance they aren't totally penalized for that rough start to the year.
Again, this won't be implemented anytime soon. If at all. GMs aren't even discussing it at the league level. But I can't help but think of Greg's idea in the context of the Islanders 2021-22 season and think it absolutely makes sense.