Insider Trading: Examining the NHL's 24-team Return to Play proposal
We’re finally at the stage where we can start talking about real playoff possibilities. Not finalized. Not approved. But realistic scenarios. Here’s the way it could look. Twenty-four teams would get in, 12 from each conference. The top-4 teams in each conference – when play was halted – would get a bye through the play-in round. The next eight would meet in a best-of-five series. So, in the West, No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago. Nashville vs. Arizona. Vancouver vs. Minnesota. Calgary vs. Winnipeg. Now if the top four seeds stay the same, the winner of Edmonton vs. Chicago would play Dallas. But, the top four seeds would not be sitting around during this play-in round. They would play their own round robin. What’s yet to be determined, is whether or not the seeding could change based on those games. Over in the East, it would be Pittsburgh vs. Montreal, Carolina vs. Rangers. Islanders vs. Florida. And Toronto vs. Columbus. So again, if the top four seeds don’t change, then Pittsburgh/Montreal winner would play Philadelphia. The Toronto/Columbus winner would play Boston and so on in a best-of-seven first round playoff series. Having digested all of that. What happens next to make all of this happen?
LeBrun: The NHL is waiting to hear back from the NHL Players’ Association, perhaps as early as Friday. In the meantime, the NHLPA’s executive board – the 31 player reps – have a call scheduled for 7pm et on Thursday night. At which point, they will discuss this format that we are discussing. Whether or not it leads to an actual vote on that call, or whether it leads to a vote throughout the weekend, or if it goes to a player-wide vote across the league, those are all options on the table. [Editor's note, Thursday, 9:45pm et: The NHLPA executive board is voting on the format and the process is expected to be completed Friday night.] As is, the players coming back with tweaks of their own to the National Hockey League, which obviously would further extend this process. But, if and when there is an agreement on a format, and we’re obviously inching closer here, the National Hockey League is going to want to get that out there. They will want to make it official, even though there’s are all kinds of other issues that haven’t been figured out. What the NHL will not share, however, is when the games will resume exactly. They’re not ready to commit to dates yet. So when there’s an announcement, we’ll get the what, we won’t get the when.
Dreger: Well, you’re right there is no rush in terms of making a decision or confirming hub cities. It’s believed that the NHL is leaning towards two hub cities. There’s still a good amount of cities in the mix. You look at three Canadian possibilities: Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton. There’s no question that the city of Edmonton, the province of Alberta is certainly putting a political push behind its want to host and be one of those two hub cities. The Edmonton Oilers and the City of Edmonton are presenting a lifestyle card, if you will. To give players an indication of what they can expect, if Vegas is a frontrunner as most believe, in July and August, it’s 40-plus degrees Celsius in Vegas. It’s really hot. It’s not that in Edmonton. It’s 20-25 degrees. So, maybe they secure a golf course for the players. They’ve got the ice district, so they’ve got huge big screen outdoors. They can watch their games. They could watch movies. Indoor screens at Ford Hall. At Rogers Arena, they have 12 separate dining areas for the individual teams. So there’s a whole lot of work that’s continuing to make this a reality in Edmonton.
McKenzie: NHL GMs are still somewhat in the dark in terms of what’s coming down the pipe. They still have a decent idea, like a lot of us do, of what that may look like. And I would say that many NHL GMs I’ve spoke to are pretty lukewarm about it, at best. But as I said, they know it’s coming. Their No. 1 reason or complaint that I’ve heard from general managers is this format distances itself too much from the NHL regular season. We’ll use the Montreal Canadiens as an example: At the pause, the Canadiens had about a one per cent chance of making the playoffs. Now, with a play-in round with a best-of-five against the Pittsburgh Penguins, is that a 30, 40, 50 per cent (chance)? It doesn’t matter but it’s a much bigger number than one per cent. There’s still some GMs who feel that this is really a made-for-TV event, which it is, because there’s no fans in the stands, but they’re chuckling a little bit that Chicago and the New York Rangers being a big part of this for obvious TV reasons. Some of the GMs don’t like the fact that they are continuing with bracketing. Now, we’ve had bracketing in the Stanley Cup playoffs for quite some time, but they thought this would be a year where re-seeding would make more sense. And to use an example, the Montreal Canadiens, if they did knock the Pittsburgh Penguins off in that play-in round, they wouldn’t get the top seed in the East, they’d get the No. 4 seed in the East. And some teams think that is unfair. The other big question, no answer right now, is what happens with the draft lottery? You’ve got seven teams that are not in this 24-team format. What about the Montreal Canadiens? If they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins are they still in the draft lottery? Or does Pittsburgh go to the draft lottery? That’s a question a lot of GMs want an answer for.