NHLPA approves 24-team playoff format: Here’s what you need to know
Yesterday, the NHLPA approved the NHL return to play committee’s 24-team playoff format. So it looks like we will all finally have something to do this summer besides bingeing old games and the same 5 hockey movies over and over. But in all seriousness, as much as I would love to just say “Hockey’s Back!”, so much is still unknown about how the 2019-2020 season will truly come to pass, but here’s what we do know:
The Players’ Opinions:
Getting this format passed by the NHLPA was not a simple task, a conference call that was held Thursday night was described as intense and the player’s vote is rumored to have been incredibly close.
While last night’s NHLPA executive committee conference call got a little heated at times, and various individual players still have a wide variety of views on the NHL’s RTP format, the exec committee vote by team is expected to result in NHLPA approval of the NHL plan.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 22, 2020
Many of the players are worried about the idea of being away from their families for the time that the playoffs would be occurring. This must have been quite the polarizing factor in the debate as it has little effect on the majority of young players in the league.
Back in April, Philadelphia Flyers’ forward Joel Farabee talked about being ready to go despite what he would have to sacrifice. I can’t help but wonder if our very own Captain Claude would have voted against this suggestion because unlike 20-year-old Farabee, he has a young family.
Another issue that players had with the format was the inclusion of teams like Chicago and Montreal, as the Blackhawks had only 72 points and the Canadiens were 10 pts out of a wild card spot with 71 points. While normally, the inclusion of these teams wouldn’t bother me, on the off chance that a team that otherwise would not have made the playoffs wins the cup, their achievement will not be taken as seriously as a team that won under regular circumstances. Predators’ center Matt Duchene shares these same concerns with this aspect saying, “…whoever wins the Cup is gonna have people try to take it away from them for their whole lives, and guys don’t deserve that.”
Despite the disagreement, the majority of players voted in favor of the 24-team format. While details still need to be discussed, the current arrangement would be as follows:
The top 4 seeds from each conference would get byes through the first round, while seeds 5-12 would participate in a play-in series, which will be a best of 5 series. During the first round, the 8 protected teams will likely play in warmup games, these games would serve to allow the players to get back into the swing of the game and to help re-seed the top 8 in the second round. The current seeding is all based on each teams’ record as of March 12th.
The current set up is as follows:
- Boston Bruins
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12)
Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)
New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)
Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)
- St. Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Dallas Stars
Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)
Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11)
Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)
Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)
What’s Left to Accomplish:
While this is all exciting, there is still lots more to do. The NHL itself has to officially approve the format. Once that is done, a venue will need to be selected. Obviously, no fans will be present, no matter the location. The playoffs will likely be played between two arenas to minimize travel. While the league is currently looking at anywhere from 4-9 locations, Las Vegas is a front runner. Vegas’s ability to accommodate all the players with both housing and facilities is one of the reasons it’s so appealing. It shares similar qualities to Disney, which is where the NBA has unofficially decided to hold their playoffs. The NHL will also likely announce the dates of the draft lottery and the 2020 draft in the upcoming days.
A 24-team playoff format and stadiums without the roar of the crowd will certainly be something for both fans and players alike to get used to. Nonetheless, in these unprecedented times, the return of hockey certainly seems like a light at the end of the tunnel.