Fans who have been eager for some more concrete news regarding the National Hockey League's return to action this season may not have to wait much longer as it sounds like we may have had our first significant breakthrough in negotiations between the NHL itself and the National Hockey League Players Association.
According to a report from TSN NHL insider Pierre LeBrun the Return to Play Committee, a group comprised of representation from both the NHL and NHLPA, made progress over the weekend as it pertains to a 24 team playoff format. Of course we have been hearing for several days now that the NHL was leaning towards the 24 team postseason format but this appears to our first official confirmation that this is the type of scenario that we can expect to see play out when the NHL does eventually resume the 2019 - 2020 campaign.
Sources indicate the Return To Play Committee has talked throughout the weekend, NHL-NHLPA making progress on a 24-team format. Sources also stressing there's still work to be done, but clearly the weekend has produced some traction. More talks expected over next day or two.
Again, tough to handicap at this point whether a format gets agreed upon this week or not but definite progress. A reminder that the NHL has a Board of Governors call Monday at 3 p.m. ET; and that the league may announce decision on the draft this week.
There have been a ton of criticisms of the 24 team playoff format but there are very clear reasons why the National Hockey League would want to move towards such a scenario. For one teams like the Montreal Canadiens or the Chicago Blackhawks would likely protest if they were excluded given that they still had a chance of getting into the playoffs, regardless of how slim those chances may have been. Aside from the competitive integrity however there are some more cynical reasons that are likely at play here. Montreal for example is one of the NHL's biggest markets, as are many of the teams that would be squeezed into the playoffs in a 24 team playoff format and that would mean extra dollars for the NHL. The reality is the league needs to recover some of the revenue that has been lost as a result of this unexpected shutdown, and this will be a great way to do so while making an entertaining product for fans in the process.