Things have really started to pick up steam over the last few days with more and more reports coming out that suggest that National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players Association are moving towards a 24 team playoff format to finish off the 2019 - 2020 NHL season. Of course the question on the mind of every hockey fan in the world right now is how will this 24 team playoff work out?
In a recent article for The Athletic NHL insider Scott Burnside shared information he has received from multiple sources regarding a plan that is currently being looked out or was looked at by the NHL and NHLPA. Burnside was clear to established that he does not know whether or not this will be the final iteration of the plan, but as of right now here are the key details of that plan:
It sounds like there will be 4 central locations where the games will be played out and we now know thanks to comments made by Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis today that those cities are being referred to as "pods." That makes sense given that we have heard reports that all 4 divisions will have their own city to play in when this all kicks off. One of the more interesting details to me is the fact that the NHL will not allow any team to play in its home city regardless of which cities are chosen in the end, which means that every team in the league will effectively be playing away games for the remainder of the season.
Burnside also provided a list of which teams would be included in this proposed format, another juicy bit of information. It's looking like it will be 6 teams in each division, which makes sense given the desire to include 24 teams but there will be some minor adjustments made to those divisions based on win percentage in an attempt to have the conference leader grouped with the weakest team in the conference.
The Atlantic Division pod will feature the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.
The Metropolitan Division pod will feature the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Central Division pod will feature the defending Stanley Cup Champions the St. Louis Blues as well as the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.
The Pacific Division pod will feature the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes.
So how would the actual tournament itself work out? Well according to Burnside we would be looking at round robin style tournament to kick things off. The teams would all play one another within their division and their win percentage in this mini tournament would be combined with their win percentage prior to the season stoppage to determine seeding. The top two teams from each division would be granted a bye into what we consider the traditional Stanley Cup Playoffs with 16 teams, 8 on each side of the bracket, competing for the cup, however the remaining teams would face off in something of a mini playoff series. Those teams would play in a best of 3 format to determine contenders for the remaining spots in the playoffs.
It all sounds pretty exciting and I must admit I am going to be happy just to have hockey back.