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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Thoughts on the NHL’s 24-team playoff format?

Monday is here again and that means the mailbag is back to answer the questions you’ve always wanted to know about the NHL and life in general. Our panel of experts bloggers dove into the depths of their experience to give you every last juicy nugget of wisdom that their brains could muster and all for the low low price of nothing at all. As always, this feature depends on you guys so I need you to submit your questions. If you have something you’d like to know you can always email me, or DM me on Twitter. With that out of the way, it’s time to learn something. Enjoy.

Mar 5, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) scores a goal against Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (50) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Chandler asks – With the rumoured 24 team playoff format for this year would you rather see the Oilers get a “bye” or play Chicago in a short series?

Jason Gregor:

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For me, it is more about sticking within divisions, than if the Oilers get a bye. It doesn’t make sense to me that the NHL played 85% of a season, where the format would have been top-three in the division and then two wildcards spots. To deviate from that makes little sense to me. I understand going to 24 teams, so just extend the format to top-five in the division and then two wildcard berths. The same 24 teams would make it, but the division rivalries; which the NHL is promoting, would still be intact.

Robin Brownlee:

We’re not going to find a process that everybody likes. I’m fine with Edmonton playing Chicago if it’s five games. If you can’t beat the Blackhawks you don’t deserve a shot at the Stanley Cup.

Cam Lewis:

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The biggest issue is just scrapping the divisions. The NHL has made sticking to divisions such a thing the past few years and teams have built themselves to face their divisional foes. Now they’re just going to throw that out the window for a conference format. It isn’t the end of the world, but it seems a bit disingenuous to the regular season that was played. That said, Edmonton should beat Chicago. They aren’t very good and they sold at the trade deadline.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

There are pros and cons to both situations. On one hand, I would rather see them get a bye so they’re guaranteed to be considered a playoff team. But in that case, they would be a rusty group going up against a team with 3-5 games under their belt. If they play the Hawks, they’ll get a chance to start playing games sooner, which is a positive for both the players and the fans, but there’s no denying that the Hawks are a tough matchup for the Oilers. Either way, I’m just excited for hockey to be back.

Baggedmilk:

I wrote about it yesterday, but there was never going to be a solution that everyone was going to be happy with. At the end of the day, I’m just excited that we’re inching closer to having hockey back. Will it be weird? Absolutely, but I’m still pumped to watch the boys do their thing.

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2) Casey asks – I’m just curious to know if anyone has a different idea than the proposed 24-team playoff format that has been making the rounds this week that might work better?

Jason Gregor:

My answer above describes what I think they should have done.

Robin Brownlee:

No, not really. While 24 teams seems like too many to me, there is no perfect format.

Cam Lewis:

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There was probably a way to do it with 22 teams, which would have featured all of the teams who were actually on the bubble of making it at the time of the pause. It’s pretty obvious they wanted Chicago and Montreal in the mix because they’re big TV markets. It isn’t perfect, but it was never going to be.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I wouldn’t mind seeing them guarantee ‘playoff spots’ for the teams that are top three in their division and then creating a play-in system for the wild card spots, but that’s unlikely. It seems like both the league and the NHLPA are happy with the 24 team format.

Baggedmilk:

I would have stuck with the normal format while also giving the bubble teams a chance at the play-in mini-tournament. Meh. Let’s just get back on the ice.

3) Taylor asks – Seeing as the Oilers will likely have little cap space to work with, are there are free agents that might work well to bolster the lineup? 

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see many, to be honest. I’d look at resigning Tyler Ennis or Mike Green on one-year deals instead of going elsewhere on the market.

Robin Brownlee:

Need to know what the actual cap will be first. How tight things are will impact who is available — UFA players who can’t be signed by their current teams etc. — and who the Oilers can look at. Does Holland move Kris Russell? What does he deem the needs to be after watching the team perform during the conclusion of this season/playoffs? Too many balls in the air right now to circle specific targets at this point.

Cam Lewis:

I would avoid making any long-term commitments in free agency. We might have a flat cap for a couple of years and the Oilers will need to pay Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ethan Bear, and Kailer Yamamoto sooner than later. I think keeping around mid-season acquisitions like Tyler Ennis and even Mike Green would be ideal free agent signings.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I really don’t see any. If they go get any sort of outside roster help, I would like it to be a third-line centre. There are a couple of players I like. Erik Haula would be a good fit, but he might be too expensive. There’s also Chris Tierny out in Ottawa but he’s an RFA so the Oilers would probably have to trade for his rights before signing him. This is all dependant on Ken Holland moving out some contracts as well.

Baggedmilk:

I could see Holland fishing for a new goalie but it seems like a lot of the same guys will be coming back. What’s going to be interesting is seeing if he can reduce the team’s cap hit by moving a guy like Kris Russell. Russell’s cap hit is $4 million but the actual dollars remaining on the deal is just over half of that.

Sep 20, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Evan Bouchard (75) skates during warmup against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Bryce asks – Ken Holland and Dave Tippett are going to have some interesting decisions to make on defence for the 2020-21 season and I’m wondering what everyone thinks the right side will look like?

Jason Gregor:

Larsson, Bear and Bouchard, with the possibility of having a veteran UFA.

Robin Brownlee:

Best guess as of now is Larsson/Bear/Evan Bouchard/Benning. Is Bouchard ready?

Cam Lewis:

I think Matt Benning ends up as the odd man out as Evan Bouchard takes his spot. Benning is a good player but he’ll be priced out as a bottom-pairing or seventh defenceman. I think Mike Green will also be back on a cheap deal. It’s always good to have veterans, otherwise, suddenly, Logan Day is your top right-handed call-up option.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think that they should keep all three of Larsson, Bear, and Benning and hold off on making a move until Evan Bouchard really forces his way onto the roster. I would rather have too many defensemen than too few. The one caveat I’ll add is that if they can trade Matt Benning for a young, cost-controlled, third-line centre, then I would pull the trigger on that move and then look into what it would cost to bring back Mike Green on a one-year deal.

Baggedmilk:

Good question. I’m really interested to see what happens with Matt Benning. I think he’s a serviceable third pairing defenceman, but Evan Bouchard is going to make a push for that spot. Either way, I’m just happy to see some competition on the backend rather than gift spots to guys that maybe aren’t ready yet. My guess? Bear-Larsson-Benning (to start).

5) Trent asks – Like many sports fans, I very much enjoyed the Michael Jordan docuseries The Last Dance. Do you think a similar series should be made about the Oilers glory days or have those stories been told too often already? 

Jason Gregor:

They had Boys on the Bus, and then ESPN had a 30 for 30 on the Gretzky being traded, so I sense much of the stories have already been told. However, Boys on the Bus isn’t readily available for many, so if they upgraded it digitally and added some other stories I think that would be good, since those who watched it, including myself, have forgotten parts of it, and younger fans have never seen it.

Robin Brownlee:

Already been done. Andy Thompson, the executive producer of The Last Dance, actually took a long look at The Boys on the Bus leading up to doing his series. With the passing of time, I’m not sure anybody could do a better job of looking at the dynasty days of the Oilers than Boys on the Bus did. The story has been told and was well done. I wouldn’t be that interested in another one.

Cam Lewis:

The thing that made The Last Dance so interesting is the fact Michael Jordan has a massive ego and went completely gloves off in talking about his time with the Bulls. I can’t imagine anybody from the 80s Oilers doing the same. I mean, if Wayne Gretzky got a wee bit lost in the sauce and did so, that would be great, but it wouldn’t happen. There are plenty of insane 80s Oilers stories floating around, but good luck getting anybody to tell them as candidly as MJ did.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think those stories have been told plenty of times and honestly, I don’t think any of the players would give us the juicy details that we want.

Baggedmilk:

The only way I’d want them to revisit the glory years would be if the players were open and honest about some of the shenanigans that went on back then, which seems unlikely. Aside from that, I think Boys on the Bus is good enough.

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