Gary Bettman made right call to not expand NHL playoffs


This season of indistinguishable teams affirms Gary Bettman’s decision to hold the line against expanding the postseason to include a play-in event that would lower a bar that’s way too close to the ground in the first place.
It’s bad enough — OK, mediocre enough — that the Islanders (31-41 heading into Saturday) still have a chance to squeeze into eighth place, but under a system that would swell participation to 10 teams per conference, Patrick Roy’s merry band would have actually held a spot upon taking the ice Saturday night in Tampa.
The 32-40 Penguins would be right in the thick of it, the habitually disappointing 35-37 Wild would essentially have a spot locked down and the 30-42 Kraken would remain in the equation. To those who suggest that it would be beneficial to keep as many teams — and by extension, as many teams’ fan bases — in contention for as long as possible, then why not simply throw a 32-team invitational?
Oh, they already do. It’s called the 82-game regular-season.
The lack of disparity within the league is surely a function of a fourth season operating in a flat cap environment under which the limit has increased by only $2 million. Teams with weaknesses at the start of the season essentially have those same weaknesses now.
4 Gary Bettman seems to have made the right call to not expand the NHL’s playoffs. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con
A spate of long-term injury designations have exacerbated the problem of diluted rosters. Just wait until another two teams are added via expansion.
I don’t quite understand why the pursuit of excellence has become secondary to establishing the league’s lowest common denominator for contention, why celebration of the Montreal, Toronto, Detroit and Islanders dynasties have been co-opted by the philosophy of “just wanting to get in and anything can happen.”
4 Patrick Roy and the Islanders would’ve held a playoff spot entering Saturday night if the NHL used a 10-team playoff. Corey Sipkin for the NY Post
Well, maybe that is just reflective of human nature. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the ethos on display at the 1970 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of G. Harrold Carswell, a nominee of Richard Nixon who had been severely criticized for a mediocre record on the bench among myriad issues.
This is when Sen. Roman Hruska of Nebraska rose to the judge’s defense (or so he thought) by saying, “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance?”
And how about those Ottawa Senators, Senator? Don’t they deserve some love, too? (PS: Carswell’s nomination was rejected by a vote of the Senate.)
The Devils, apparently operating under the delusion that winning five playoff games last spring meant something more profound than exposing the Rangers’ dysfunction, just threw away a season — and almost cavalierly. Blame permeates through an organization that inexplicably all but took the year off.
The goaltending was bad? Oh well. Dougie Hamilton went down for the year leaving the team with another $9 million to spend under the cap? No need when rookies are there to be overburdened.
There is still a ton of young talent pulsing through the bloodline. Maybe this season will prove to be a learning experience for the players and hierarchy. But nothing is guaranteed. If the Devils thought they were playing with house money this season, they have burned through all of it.
4 The Devils, despite their success last year in the playoffs, appeared to take this season off at times. USA TODAY Sports
The Devils have had their share of bad teams and bad years over the last decade. They had some dreadful years immediately after relocating from Colorado. This was worse than all of that.
Indeed, this one ranks as the second-most disappointing season in the club’s 41-season franchise history, surpassed only by the 1988-89 team that never came close to being in playoff contention after having gone to Game 7 of the conference finals the season before. Immaturity marked that season. Sometimes things don’t change all that dramatically.
Next year, the Devils will start from scratch with a new voice behind the bench, presumably one with gravitas that had nothing to do with this debacle. They start with none of the abundant benefit of the doubt they carried through much of the season. Credibility must be rebuilt. That is never automatic.
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I guess Erik Gustafsson isn’t important enough for George Parros and the NHL Department of Player Safety to protect.
That’s as good an explanation as you’ll get for the lack of discipline applied to Sam Reinhart after Florida’s 51-goal-scoring winger swung his elbow into the Ranger defenseman’s head last Saturday in a battle for the puck and likely concussed the Swede, sidelined now for three contests after leaving that one in the second period.
No hearing. No suspension. No fine.
No respect.
The loser point continues to turn the standings into more of a funhouse mirror than a true refection of the season. That is the only way to characterize it when Bruins are tied with the Panthers despite Boston winning 42 games and Florida 47 and the Islanders lead the Devils despite winning 31 to New Jersey’s 36.
The Bruins, though, have 15 losses in overtime or the shootout while the Panthers have 5. The Islanders have lost 15 after regulation and the Devils four.
So the object of the game is not necessarily to win, it is to get through 60 minutes tied. Again, this is another example of lowering the bar…to benefit teams that lose.
4 The Bruins have shown that sometimes, it’s important to just get through 60 minutes tied. USA TODAY Sports
I don’t know what has gone wrong in Anaheim with Trevor Zegras, who always seems agitated and/or frustrated—check out the way he destroyed the penalty box camera in Seattle on Thursday after a questionable call—but this is a young man who is clearly in need of a new beginning.


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