'Keep it at 16 teams': Why NHL players don't want expanded playoffs

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The most surprising thing I discovered during NHL All-Star Weekend wasn't Sidney Crosby's affinity for dunk tanks or that Montreal doesn't have a single Chipotle restaurant for Nick Suzuki to claim his year's supply of bowls and burritos. Although those were stunning in their own right -- man should not live on poutine alone.

No, it was that NHL players, by and large, do not want teams added to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"Keep it at 16 teams. You have to make it really hard to make it," Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon told me.

"I think 16 is good. You've got to deserve the spot in the playoffs. That's the reality," Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov said.

"You're pretty beat up and exhausted at the end of it. It's a good sweet spot that they found," Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson said.

Most of the players I've spoken to about playoff expansion share this mindset: Bringing in more teams would cheapen their arduous regular season and dull the triumph of playoff qualification.

"It's hard to make the playoffs, as opposed to having more and more teams can make it in," one veteran NHL player told me. "It's tough to make it into 16 of 32 spots. That's what you work all season for. Even if you lose in the first round, you made it, you know?"

None of the players I spoke with were slamming their fists on the table and demanding playoff expansion. At best, some players whose teams are currently outside of playoff seeding might have been ... shall we say, a little more accepting of the idea.

"I like it the way it is. I don't know how much more expanding it would bring to it," Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders said, "but I'm open-minded."