On Friday, the NHLPA executive council voted to move forward with talks regarding a 24-team playoff round in the return to the NHL efforts. Although this vote means that the players have agreed to go ahead with the proposed plan to bring back 24 teams, the specific format of how the playoffs will be played has not yet been set in stone.
NHLPA released this statement after voting in favor of the format …
“The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) Executive Council has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return-to-play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. More details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the agreement of the parties on all questions relating to the resumption of play. “
So, in the end, the only thing that has been accepted here is the return of 24 teams. The proposed playoff format that includes eight teams (the top four from each conference) getting a bye while the remaining teams undergo a series of play-ins to continue could still be adjusted.
Here are some key questions that need to be answered:
- The hook type format. In the format Elliotte Friedman shared earlier in the week, the league would operate in a support style, similar to that of the NCAA March Madness tournament. The problem here is that you could have a # 12 seed by playing a # 4 seed in the second round while a better # 8 or # 9 seed team should play the n seed ° 1. A simple reseeding after each round from highest to lowest could solve this problem.
- Draft positions. There had already been talk of using a percentage of points at the break to determine the draft order. But now, teams that were tied to the playoffs could end up missing the playoffs if they lost their playoff series. Would they have missed the playoffs and maintain a low draft position? One idea I have seen is that if the bottom seed turns upside down in the play-in series, the two teams change their draft positions. So if the Oilers lost to Chicago, they would get the Blackhawks’ draft.
- Also, could there be a way to give an advantage to some of the highest ranked teams during the game round? The Oilers were way ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings at the break, so it seems unfair that they have the same chance at advancing to the playoffs. Maybe the Oilers should start the series 1-0 to represent their lead over Chicago in the standings. It could be far-fetched, but the players would have been made worse by the way this format threw the regular season out the window.
Once the format is fully developed, the NHL and the PA have a multitude of even more complicated questions to decide. How will quarantine work? What freedom will the players have? How will the league protect players from the virus? How will the tests work? Where will it all go? Who will be the hub cities?
Friday’s vote for the 24-team format is a step in the right direction, but much remains to be done.