On Wednesday, Elliotte Friedman reported over at Sportsnet that the NHL and the NHLPA were working on a new playoff format that would see 24 teams split into two conferences.
Previously, the league was working on having 24 teams playing in four different hubs based on division, but this new plan would instead revert to the classic Eastern and Western Conference style playoff, presumably needing only two hosts rather than four.
Obviously, nothing is set in stone and things could change again before the league and the players come to an agreement on how to move forward, but, under this plan, the Oilers would face the Chicago Blackhawks in a first-round play-in series.
The top four teams in each conference would get a bye through the first round while the next eight teams would each play five-game play-in series. Edmonton narrowly misses out on being a team that gets a bye because the Dallas Stars had a better points percentage at the time of the pause.
Here’s how the seeding would shake out in the West…
• 5. Edmonton vs. 12. Chicago (winner plays four seed, Dallas Stars)
• 6. Nashville vs. 11. Arizona (winner plays three seed, Vegas Golden Knights)
• 7. Vancouver vs. 10. Minnesota (winner plays two seed, Colorado Avalanche)
• 8. Calgary vs. 9. Winnipeg (winner plays one seed, St. Louis Blues)
Even though the Blackhawks finished the season with a mediocre 32-30-8 record and sold off players like Robin Lehner and Erik Gustaffson at the trade deadline, they could be a threat in a short playoff series. Edmonton and Chicago met three times this season with the Blackhawks winning the head-to-head series two games to one.
While I wouldn’t consider the Blackhawks an automatic win in a playoff series, facing them might actually be better than having a bye. The teams that win these play-in series will generate momentum while the teams they face who had byes would be coming in rusty. Apparently, the teams with byes would play exhibition games against each other to warm up, but it isn’t the same as a legit playoff series.