It's a very exciting time in hockey right now, as the National Hockey League Players Association started voting on Thursday for a proposed 24-team, conference-based playoff tournament format to restart the 2019-20 season during the summer.
As the current proposal goes now, the playoffs would still be in a bracket format. However, the eight play-in series matchups would now replace the wild-card round that has been in play since 2013. It would be a best-of-three series, allowing the top-seeded teams to not be as rusty upon returning from the long hiatus.
The play-in series would decide which teams would move on to the traditional round of 16. There, the top four seeds would then face the winners from those play-in matchups.
If the deal goes through, the seedings and matchups for the opening round would look something like this:
- 1) Boston Bruins
- 2) Tampa Bay Lightning
- 3) Washington Capitals
- 4) Philadelphia Flyers
- 5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12) Montreal Canadiens
- 6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11) New York Rangers
- 7) New York Islanders vs. 10) Florida Panthers
- 8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9) Columbus Blue Jackets
- 1) St. Louis Blues
- 2) Colorado Avalanche
- 3) Vegas Golden Knights
- 4) Dallas Stars
- 5) Edmonton Oilers vs. 12) Chicago Blackhawks
- 6) Nashville Predators vs. 11) Arizona Coyotes
- 7) Vancouver Canucks vs. 10) Minnesota Wild
- 8) Calgary Flames vs. 9) Winnipeg Jets
In a disappointing move, we wouldn't see the highest seeds playing the lowest seeds available after the first round like usual. Instead, the No. 1 seed would play the winner of the 8-9 matchup, the 2 would play the 7-10 winner, the 3 would play the 6-11 winner, and the 4 would play the 5-12 winner. That could create some funky matchups if the underdogs end up winning any of those eight series.
Ready To Go
No matter how this all comes about, I think we're all happy to have the possibility of hockey back in our lives, even if it comes with some flaws.
"I don't think there's going to be a perfect scenario where everyone's super excited about," Nashville's Ryan Johansen told The Associated Press earlier Thursday. "As long as everybody can agree and be happy with the decision that will be made, that's really all that matters."
The NHLPA executive committee got together on Thursday to discuss the format and other return-to-play issues. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email to ESPN that, "I'm not aware of any agreement yet. Don't want to jump the gun on anything."
One of the less-talked-about issues at hand is the quality of ice in the summer months. In years previous, it has been found that the ice isn't as great in the cities with a warmer climate in the summer, a la Los Angeles or Tampa Bay.
To get itself in the right situation, the NHL is likely going to have only two "hub" cities where everyone congregates to play the games. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has even said that the league explored anywhere from four to nine different locations that could have been used for play as well.
Of course, we're all excited to see this all become a plan and turn into reality – and it will certainly come with some trial and error. We're all just feeling excited to see our favorite players and teams back on the ice at some point. Whenever that day comes, we'll be waiting here with open arms.