We’ve seen what the concept of a one game playoff has done to increase the drama of the playoffs in Major League Baseball. Could that same excitement be translated to the NHL? Red Wings general manager Ken Holland certainly thinks so.
“I’m all for an extra team in each conference qualifying for the playoffs and having a wild- card play-in game,” Holland said in an interview with TSN’s Gary Lawless. “It would add excitement down the stretch for many more teams fighting for the additional wild-card spot and two extra teams would be involved in the playoffs. Those play-in games would be dramatic.”
Currently, the NHL’s playoff format sees the top three teams from each division qualify for the playoffs, with both conferences also taking the next two teams with the highest point amounts into the postseason as wild card teams. The division winner with the most points in each conference draws the wild card team with the fewer amount of points, and the division with the fewer amount of points takes on the wild card team with the highest amount of points. The teams finishing second and third in each division will meet in the first round within the bracket headed by their respective division winners.
Holland’s strategy involves three wild card teams in each conference. The highest seeded wild card team would automatically earn a first round playoff series, while the remaining two wild card teams would go head to head in a one game playoff to determine which advances to a first round series.
Holland has been at the forefront of a few other ideas that have changed the game, including three on three overtime, as well as having the Stanley Cup champion draft in the last position of each round no matter their regular season standing. Might he be on the brink of another game changer? While nothing involving the wild card idea is imminent in league circles, it could be something the league would consider.