This season’s NHL postseason format, which included 24 teams, was a product of necessity after the COVID-19 pandemic kept the league from completing its regular season.
But Islanders coach Barry Trotz would be in favor of the NHL expanding its playoffs permanently from the current 16 teams to 24.
“I think the league is so tight and the league has grown over my time in the league with the number of teams, it should be a heavy consideration,” Trotz said on Thursday with his team holding a 2-1 series lead over the Panthers in their best-of-five qualifier heading into Friday’s Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The league has had 16 teams qualify for the playoffs since absorbing four WHA teams for the 1979-80 season, which gave the NHL 21 teams. Four teams used to qualify during the NHL’s Original Six era.
Now, the expansion Seattle Kraken will join the NHL as the 32nd team in 2021-22. Trotz coached the expansion Nashville Predators in 1998-99 when the league grew to 27 teams.
Trotz said that the difference between a top seed and an eighth seed in a conference is often “one game a month.”
“There’s too much parity in the NHL,” Trotz said. “I think it’s something the league will consider for sure and I’d be in favor of it.”
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The Islanders did not practice on Thursday after back-to-back games, so there was no update on defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who exited Saturday’s Game 1 with a suspected concussion. “Johnny hasn’t skated,” Trotz said. “I know he’s making progress…” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville is hopeful All-Star left wing Jonathan Huberdeau will be available for Game 4 after missing the final 5:02 of Wednesday’s Game 3 with an apparent right leg issue. “Good progress today,” Quenneville said. “Right now, we’re looking for him to be ready.”