With the NHL on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear when and how the 2019-20 season will resume. Several scenarios have been floated, including one intriguing idea of having a 24-team playoff beginning in August.
In this scenario, teams would play an abbreviated regular season that would end in approximately late July. This would allow teams sufficient time to warm up before the playoffs begin, and it would mean an even number of games for teams to make their case for postseason seeding.
If the regular season ended today, the 12 teams from each conference with the most points would qualify for the postseason. Under this scenario, the Stanley Cup Finals would finish in late September.
1. Boston Bruins (1st place Atlantic Division)2. Tampa Bay Lightning (2nd place Atlantic Division)3. Washington Capitals (1st place Metropolitan Division)4. Philadelphia Flyers (2nd place Metropolitan Division)5. Pittsburgh Penguins (3rd place Metropolitan Division)6. Carolina Hurricanes7. Toronto Maple Leafs (3rd place Atlantic Division)8. Columbus Blue Jackets9. New York Islanders10. New York Rangers11. Florida Panthers12. Montreal Canadiens
Eastern Conference: Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers
Western Conference: Blues, Avalanche, Golden Knights, Oilers
REMAINING 8 PLAYOFF-QUALIFIED TEAMS IN EACH CONFERENCE TO PLAY BEST-OF-3 PRELIMINARY ROUND
Here’s where the tricky part starts. Would the NHL value division finishes or would seeding be determined by conference rankings? That detail would be a topic of contention among clubs. These would be the matchups if the preliminary round seeds were determined by conference standing:
5) Penguins vs. 12) Canadiens
6) Hurricanes vs. 11) Panthers
7) Maple Leafs vs. 10) Rangers
8) Blue Jackets vs. 9) Islanders
5) Stars vs. 12) Blackhawks
6) Jets vs. 11) Coyotes
7) Flames vs. 10) Wild
8) Predators vs. 9) Canucks
There has also been talk of a 22-team playoff and the possibility of cross-conference seeding. Given the potential crunch of games within a short time frame, there isn’t a clear and obvious solution. The players and the league will have plenty of time to draw up a fair playoff system before the puck drops again.