Friedman: ‘He is not interested in changing the playoff format’

If you’re wondering why Gary Bettman and the NHL are standing firm on not changing the playoff format, it may not be that complicated an answer.

Elliotte Friedman had a Friday morning radio hit on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960.

The playoff format for the league has come up a lot on the Insider circuit in the last week around the general managers meetings, with each man clearly noting that Bettman has zero appetite to do anything on this front.

“I don’t think the league has any desire to change it,” reiterated Friedman. “This year we interviewed the commissioner two days before he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. We talked a lot about the playoff format. In particular, I was a big believer in adding four more teams and having a first-round play-down, and he shot it down. He is not interested in changing the playoff format.

“I should say that I believe TV was one of the big factors in this. I don’t know if it was us, or if it was NBC. It predates Rogers, it was when the rights were at CBC, but I do know - I believe it was NBC because we were told at the time they liked the more predictability of knowing who the matchups were going to be.

“Previously the NHL re-seeded, and I know TV wasn’t as thrilled with that. It was more difficult to play and prepare for, at least that’s what we were told, and it was one of the reasons the NHL changed. The other was to promote more rivalries, and it’s just been real bad luck, unfortunately for them.

“Honestly, I think if there had been more Battles of Alberta, if there had been more Toronto-Montreal, if there had been more Islanders-Rangers and stuff like that, or Philly-Pittsburgh, which has happened a couple of times - I don’t think anybody would be complaining about this. But the fact is they haven’t gotten the rivalries they wanted, and therefore more and more people complain about this.

“But as far as I can tell, as much as people don’t like this - and I know a lot of people don’t like this set-up - I don’t sense there’s any real momentum on the part of the NHL to change this.”