NHL Announces Return to Play Format, But No Set Dates
David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid
The NHL has a plan to return to action this summer, though we don’t know exactly when.
Here’s what we learned from Commissioner Gary Bettman’s press conference Tuesday:
- The regular season is over
- Each conference will be assigned a hub city for the playoffs
- 24-team postseason format
- The bottom eight qualifying teams in each conference will play a best-of-5 series to get into the playoffs
- The top four seeds will play in a round robin to determine seeding
- We don’t know if the bracket will re-seed after each round
- Each team will be limited to 50 personnel
- Training camp will not begin before July 1
Bettman did say he expects the Stanley Cup Playoffs to spill over into the fall, which likely means a late July start to the postseason, at the earliest.
We don’t know the host cities either, but here are the 10 under consideration: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vancouver.
What’s the Format?
The NHL will roll with a format reported last week — 24 teams, with the top four teams in each conference getting a bye (though they will be playing each other for seeding).
That would pit the 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, and 8 vs. 9 in best-of-five series.
The winners of those play-in series will play the 1-4 seeds, who will play a round robin against the other three teams to determine seeding. (We don’t have full details on that yet).
The league is unsure if the true first and second rounds will be best-of-five or best-of-seven, but the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be a seven-game series.
The teams eliminated during the qualifying round will be eligible for the NHL Draft lottery, along with the seven teams that finished 25-31 during the shortened regular season.
Intentional or not, the expansion does rope in some of the league’s biggest markets with the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens all qualifying when they would not have in a normal year.
Play-In Round Matchups
Some of the smaller markets won’t be happy with how this shook out.
Here are the matchups in the East.
- No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Montreal
- No. 6 Carolina vs. No. 11 NY Rangers
- No. 7 NY Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida
- No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus
And in the West.
- No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago
- No. 6 Nashville vs. No. 11 Arizona
- No. 7 Vancouver vs. No. 10 Minnesota
- No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 9 Winnipeg
These are the official matchups for the best-of-5 qualifying rounds: pic.twitter.com/vAhCyQKCU1
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 26, 2020
2020 Stanley Cup Betting Odds
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+600|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+850|
|St. Louis Blues||+1000|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+3000|
|New York Islanders||+4200|
|New York Rangers||+4800|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+6500|