NHL Plans To Head Straight To The Playoffs Upon Return
60 days have passed since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the schedule of the current NHL season. If the season returns, the league has to adjust its schedule and number of games. As such, the NHL reportedly plans to head straight to the playoffs upon return as well as open training facilities in May to build player fitness before the season takes off.
Through reports from Senior NHL writer Greg Wyshynski and national NHL reporter Emily Kaplan, the NHL revealed its plan to conclude the 2020 season altogether by compromising.
Wyshynski confirmed the report, saying: “We can confirm that the league is currently focused on jumping directly to the Stanley Cup playoffs rather than attempting to complete the regular season ahead of the playoffs.”
Kaplan then added the new and prospective schedule of the NHL draft affected by the plan: “The NHL league office is extremely interested in staging the draft in early June, before the 2019-20 season is completed. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent out a memo to teams on May 1 that stated the league’s case. Daly wrote that NBC and Sportsnet, the league’s broadcast partners, are enthusiastically in favor of an early draft.”
The NHL is not dismissing all other options presented on the table in hopes to complete a full season. However, the board particularly favors an unprecedented 24-team playoff format if the current season resumes. 16, 20, and 24 teams are part of the options. Out of the three, a 24-team tournament is gaining more support.
The new format could potentially invite teams that were not in the playoff race anymore for the postseason. Some examples are the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens—both teams are currently sitting in the 12th place of the Western and Eastern Conference.
Even if the NHL hasn’t revealed the full format yet, it definitely eliminates the need to finish a full season. Teams would only have to compete in three to six play-in games to determine the 2019-20 champions and take a short break before the proposed NHL 2020-21 schedule.
The downside to this new format is lost revenue. Every season, teams have contractual commitments with local broadcasting partners and other sponsors. If the NHL proceeds to the playoffs directly, some of these contracts wouldn’t be fulfilled.