Tampa Bay Lightning’s concerns about Stanley Cup Playoffs are valid

The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t huge fans of the 24 team postseason.

It seems more likely with every passing day that the NHL’s going to find a way to play through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If it happens, it’s probably going to feature 24 teams instead of 16. The decision to move forward with discussing regarding the format was passed nearly unanimously on Friday, with 29 of the 31 teams voting “yes”. Who voted no? The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes.

While the Hurricanes haven’t spoken about why they voted “no”, the Lightning’s player representative, Alex Killorn, talked about the decision. Here’s what he had to say, via The Athletic.

My team also felt it was unfair that the teams with a bye would not be as well prepared for a playoff series as the teams that had already basically played a playoff series to get into the playoffs.

Another one of his concerns was that teams like the Montreal Canadiens, who had virtually no chance of making the playoffs, are now in the postseason.

Killorn also said his team is ready to play and they’re fine with how the vote played out. However, he did bring up some excellent points about the proposed 24 team postseason and his concerns warrant a further look.

First, let’s examine his point about teams who didn’t have a chance at making the postseason. The Lightning had a very bad start to their season. However, they’ve been able to right their ship and have been the best team in the NHL since the start of December.

The Lightning fought hard to get out of the hole they dug themselves into early, so it’s understandable why they were a bit reluctant to support allowing teams like the Canadiens into the postseason. And yes, the “play-in round” is the postseason.

To expand on this concern, it’s not fair to the other playoff teams to allow a team as far out of the playoff race as the Canadiens to have them make the postseason. Imagine how the Pittsburgh Penguins must feel. They’ve had a lot of obstacles, but they’ve been a very good team this year in a very competitive division. Their reward for finishing third in the Metropolitan Division? A play-in round date with the Canadiens.

Killorn’s primary concern, though, was probably the bye. 99 times out of 100, it’s better to have a bye than it is to play. Players might get injured, games aren’t played on paper, anything can happen in the playoffs, etc. However, this might be the one time out of 100 where the more rested team might not have an advantage.

Think about it. Sure, the teams with the “byes” will be having a tournament of some kind. But even if seeding is at stake, it’s hard to see any of the teams taking it too seriously. There’s probably going to be an unspoken, mutual agreement to maybe not try to kill each other out there since both teams will be getting used to being back on the ice.

After the tournament, they’re going to have to play against a team that just had to fight for their playoff lives. It’s not hard to see how this could end poorly for the higher seed. They probably haven’t played a truly meaningful game of hockey in months. Yet they have to face a team that just played at least three (assuming the play-in round will be a best of five series).

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At first glance, it’s hard to see why the Lightning wouldn’t be fans of the 24 team postseason. But if you think a bit deeper about it, their concerns are quite valid and only time will tell if those concerns ring true.

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