After the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights, there are now 31 teams in the NHL. So, will the league add a 32nd team so that there are an even 16 clubs in both conferences? Commissioner Gary Bettman says no.
“You don’t expand just to be symmetrical,” said Bettman, according to Emily Kaplan of ESPN. “Under the right circumstances, maybe. But it’s not our manifest destiny [to get to 32].”
There are currently 16 teams in the Western Conference as opposed to just 15 in the East. Does that make it more difficult for teams in the West to make the playoffs? Well, if you strictly go by probability, yes, but one can easily say that all you have to do is be one of the best eight squads in the conference, which isn’t that difficult. Just look at the Golden Knights.
Generally, expansion teams take some time to start producing wins. Not just in hockey, but in all sports. However, Vegas has gotten off to a terrific start this season, going 10-5-1 over its first 16 games. With 21 points, the Golden Knights have the third-highest point total in the West. Not too shabby for a franchise in its first year of existence.
Based on the early success of the Golden Knights, some may feel that the NHL can just add another team to the Eastern Conference to even things up, but it’s hardly that simple. For example, the addition of the Golden Knights was the first time the NHL added a team since 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild were inserted into the field.