Here is what the 2021 playoff format could look like:

Wait, that does not seem fair…

Published 3 years ago
Here is what the 2021 playoff format could look like:
Zuma Press

We are still waiting to see what the regular-season calendar will look like in the National Hockey League in 2021, however, we are starting to feel like a more concrete idea of what the playoffs format might be. Sure, the NHL has had experience with the postseason under weird circumstances as we saw back in August and in September, but all the last talk among players and league officials prompted insider Pierre LeBrun to put together an idea of what fans should expect for the 2021 postseason. 

The playoff format had been discussed amongst the NHL and its Players’ Association, however, nothing is set in stone. But there is no doubt, especially as we are heading towards a shortened season, that the format will have to be altered from what we usually get in the spring, especially with travel restrictions still tightly in place between Canada and the United States. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is reportedly considering avoiding a 24-team playoff tournament and wants to go back to the traditional 16-team showdown. 

And so, here is what LeBrun suggests in his latest piece in The Athletic. He first proposes divisional playoffs in which the top four teams in each division would make the playoffs, then it’s 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 in each division and a divisional final in the second round. The four division playoff winners would then meet in the league semifinals.

Why not bring back the Adams, Patrick, Smythe and Norris division playoffs?

As LeBrun points out, “majority of NHL team executives […] believe this is the likely path this year for a number of reasons:

  • It would reduce travel costs in the three geographically aligned U.S. divisions.
  • If regular-season games are to be played exclusively within a division, then it makes sense to continue that in the opening two rounds of the playoffs.
  • Perhaps most importantly, it pushes the Canada-U.S. border issue further down the road. The NHL would be down to the four league semifinalists in June by the time it was time for teams to cross the border.

While LeBrun also wonders if conference playoffs or even a crazy plan in which  No. 1 in the NHL standings vs. No. 16 in the opening round of the playoffs, No. 2 vs. No. 15, No. 3 vs. No. 14, etc. could work. They however don’t appear to get the majority of approval in the early stages at the moment… 

There is nothing set in stone, or ice!, but fans are so impatient to see what will happen. We are glad to see that options are on the table, which might speed things up to get a start date and a plan in place to get hockey going again.