Gary Bettman Opens Up About The Playoff Format Controversy

Julien Trekker
March 15, 2023  (7:15 PM)

NHL superstar Sidney Crosby has expressed his desire to return to the old format of NHL playoffs, but it seems that his statements have not impacted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's decision to continue with the new format.

From 1993 to 2013, the NHL had a playoff format that was based on three divisions per conference. The top three seeds were taken by the division winners, and the remaining seeds were determined by points. The first round matchups were based on seed, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 8 seed, the No. 2 seed playing the No. 7 seed, and so on. Each team would also be re-seeded after each round. Many players and managers have expressed their desire to return to this format, but Bettman has said that he does not want to return to the old format.
Despite this, Crosby and other players have continued to voice their support for the old format. They argue that it gave more weight to winning the division, and it ensured that the top teams would not face each other in the first round.

Gary Bettman Says The Current Playoff Format "Works Well"

Bettman believes that the current playoff format is working well. The current format, which has been in place since 2014, includes wild card teams and is based on divisional matchups. The top three teams from each division make the playoffs, and the two wild card teams are the two teams with the most points in each conference that did not finish in the top three of their respective divisions. The first round matchups are based on division, with the first place team in each division playing the wild card team with the fewest points, and the second and third place teams in each division playing each other.
The current playoff format has faced criticism over the past few seasons, mainly due to the fact that it forces top teams to face off in the first round. However, Bettman seems to think that it is working well, and has no plans to make any changes. In May 2022, Bettman stated that the league was not interested in expanding the playoffs to include more teams or games, and reports have since confirmed that there will be no changes to the format.
If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Maple Leafs and the Lightning, who are second and third respectively in the Atlantic division, would compete in the first round. The Bruins would face off against the last wild card spot, which is currently occupied by the New York Islanders.
While the standings can still change, it is evident that the format will remain unchanged. While Crosby and other players may continue to express their desire for the old playoff format, it seems that the current format is here to stay.