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Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NHL may push back the draft, continues to work on 24-team playoff format

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column is an absolute must-read for any hockey fan, and this week’s edition gave us further insight on a couple of items on the NHL’s summer to-do list, including another look at the NHL Entry Draft and a potential 24-team playoff format that seems to be picking up steam.

Starting with the Draft, we had heard rumblings a couple of weeks ago that the NHL wanted to hold its annual fishing derby in early June before the conclusion of the current year, but after getting some apparent pushback from nearly half of its teams, the league has decided to reconsider.

According to Friedman:

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The league could go back to its original date of June 26–27, but online. However, there is a growing sense that the league office is backing away from this fight. On the Board of Governors call three days after that memo, it’s believed that approximately half the teams indicated they were completely against doing it before the end of the playoffs. Even more of an issue was there weren’t many teams willing to fight for doing it early. One of the concerns with having it in the fall is suddenly the sports calendar is jammed with NFL, tennis majors, golf majors, big horse races, MLB, etc. But that argument is not swaying anyone.

Personally, I thought the idea of holding the draft before the end of the season was a horrible one, and I’m glad to see that the NHL has seemingly backed off from this disastrous plan. From player trades to conditional draft picks to forcing a square peg in a round hole, the NHL was trying to put the cart before the horse with their draft idea as a means of cashing in on some summer revenue but there were simply too many obstacles to clear if it was ever going to work. Thankfully, they appear to have abandoned their leaky ship on this idea and I, for one, am grateful for it.

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On the 24-team playoff format

Mar 13, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The statue of Wayne Gretzky watches over an empty Rogers Place as the NHL suspends games because of the COVID-19 outbreak at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

While nothing is yet set in stone when it comes to the playoffs or any facet of life really, Friedman also noted that an announcement regarding the postseason could come as early as next week. Down Highway 2, Calgary Flames GM, Brad Treliving, told the media during his weekly conference call that he’s starting to “sense some momentum that next week there could be at least a preliminary plan in place for where we go.”

Naturally, there’s absolutely no guarantee on what’s going to happen with the NHL’s 2019-20 season, but it does sound like the 24-team playoff format could be in the cards. How would it look, you ask? Well, Friedman had the breakdown:

METROPOLITAN HUB: Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Islanders, Columbus

ATLANTIC HUB: Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida, Montreal, Rangers (added as lowest seed from Metropolitan — Bruins are top-ranked in East, and should have that reward in their hub)

CENTRAL HUB: St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, Winnipeg, Nashville, Chicago (Blackhawks stay in Central because Blues are top-ranked in West)

PACIFIC HUB: Vegas, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Arizona, Minnesota

The first round “becomes” a five-game round robin — with a handicap by standings at arrival of the pause. Based on points percentage, the seeds could be given from 10 points (first) to 0 (sixth) at the start. If you think that’s too much, maybe go from five points to zero. That way, every team that comes back gets a minimum of five games.

Top four move on to the next round, and decide if we’re dealing with best-of-five or best-of-seven from then on.

Frankly, I don’t know if I’m smart enough to figure out this format but I’m sure as hell excited that the NHL seems to have a plan in mind for how it will work. Despite my inability to do math or figure out how this would work, I’m hopeful that the NHL will be able to figure out a way to safely play the game whenever local health officials give them the go-ahead. It goes without saying that when that might happen is anyone’s guess, but I do appreciate that the wheels are in motion regardless of how unlikely any of this may seem at the moment. Dare to dream, Nation. Dare to dream. 

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