Finally a light at the end of the tunnel as the NHL makes progress towards a way to finish the 2019-20 season. News broke today the league plans to move away from finishing the regular season and instead go right to a 24 team playoff. While the plans are not set in stone and there is still work to be done, it is progress. Some things that were only speculated before have also been confirmed but they are on the minor side.
So what was reported today was the league has a plan to move towards a 24 team playoff instead of finishing the regular season. Those 24 teams would then be split into four divisional groups of six teams. Each divisional group would then hold a round-robin style tournament with each team playing five games in nine nights. The tournament results and the regular-season standings would then be used to re-seed each group. From here the top two teams in each group would move on while seeds 3-6 would play a best of three series with the winners moving on to the round of 16.
From this point on the playoffs would proceed as normal. It is my opinion this is just talking about the length of each series. With each division having seeds 1-6 news of how the league plans to re-seed the round of 16 has yet to be confirmed. As for who is in each division the current groups break down as follows.
The Atlantic Division would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Montreal Canadiens.
The Metropolitan Division would be the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Central Division would hold the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Finally, in the Pacific Division the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, and Minnesota Wild.
As you can see there is some divisional cross over which leaves the round of 16 format up in the air. Going with the current divisional format the teams would play the remaining teams in their divisional group. This means each Conference Championship Series would be between the division winners. The teams could also be re-seeded 1-8 and return to the best play worst format. The only reason I wonder if the league moves away from the divisional format is because the Wild are in the Pacific Division group and the Rangers are in the Atlantic. If either team went on to represent that division in the Conference Finals would they be that said division champion? While each team might not even make the round of 16 it's still could happen and present an issue.
What Was Confirmed
While the exact playoff format is still not finalized we do have some concrete answers. First, the hub city rumor has been confirmed as part of the plan. Four cities will be chosen to host each divisional group. Something new that was also revealed is no team will play in their home city. So while say Toronto has been rumored to be a potential hub city, they would be unable to host the Atlantic Division group. One of the four cities would then be chosen to host the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals. The league also announced plans for a three-week training camp prior to the start of the new playoffs.
While some things stayed the same, the addition of a round-robin round solves a big issue with just jumping right into the opening round of the playoffs. I am also a huge fan of how the divisional groups ended up for the Bruins if they, in fact, stay this way after the final vote. Getting the Rangers added to Toronto, Florida, and Montreal is a huge break. The other none-top three Metro teams probably are a bigger test against the Bruins, especially after the layoff. With only Tampa looking like a difficult round-robin game the Bruins should be in a good position heading to the round of 16. That likely means bypassing the best of three play-in round and less chance for players to get injured after the break. As the league moves towards the final format we will keep you up to date with any more changes and news as it breaks. With the NHL making news, the other leagues are sure to follow soon so keep an eye on all our team pages for the latest.
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com