Expansion continues to be a hot topic in the NHL and Gary Bettman was recently asked about the possibility of a new team joining the Eastern Conference. Based on the current structure of the league (14 teams in the West and 16 in the East), the obvious solution is to place two teams in the West to balance things out.
Would Bettman consider adding a team in the East if the right location comes calling? It doesn’t sound like he’d be opposed.
Bettman: “I suppose if 16-14 works, so does 17-15.”
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) April 24, 2015
When did everyone agree that the current 16-14 format is working? Yes, the league has used that format this season and the sky isn’t falling, but Eastern teams will argue against the fact it’s “working” considering it’s mathematically easier to make the playoffs in the West. That’s a problem and that imbalance needs to be corrected.
Vegas may be the future destination of an NHL team, but beyond that there’s nothing but speculation. Some suggested destinations (a second team in Toronto or one in Quebec) should fall in the Eastern Conference, which would fit Bettman’s suggested imbalance barring any further realignment of current teams.
Eventually, the NHL needs to have balanced conferences. It’s kind of insane the league is currently operating with a 16-14 split, but the thought has always been that the issue will be promptly resolved. Assuming that the current unfair format is “working” is simply foolish and moving forward and planning for further imbalance is lunacy.