NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today explained how exactly the 24-team return to play format will work, a proposal that was submitted to and approved by the NHLPA executive board over the weekend.
First and foremost was the announcement that the 2019-20 regular season is officially over. There will be no more regular season games, meaning that Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is the 2020 Art Ross winner as leading scorer.
Should the league return this summer, there will be 24-team postseason held in two hub cities. In early June, the league hopes to move to Phase 2 of small group workouts. Phase 3, which is a three-week training camp, is expected to start in early July.
The hub locations that are still in consideration are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. The final determination will come later.
The top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin to determine seeding for the playoffs. The other teams in each conference will be matched up in a qualifying round. Neither of these rounds are technically considered the playoffs, but are also not the regular season. The qualifying matchups are as follows:
- 5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Montreal
6. Carolina vs. 11. Rangers
7. Islanders vs. 10. Florida
8. Toronto vs. 9. Columbus
- 5. Edmonton vs. 12. Chicago
6. Nashville vs. 11. Arizona
7. Vancouver vs. 10. Minnesota
8. Calgary vs. 9. Winnipeg
The league has not yet determined whether or not they will reseed after each round or use a bracket system throughout the playoffs.
The NHL Draft Lottery will be held in one or two phases and is quite a bit more complicated than in year’s past. It will be held on June 26th and include the seven eliminated teams—Detroit, Ottawa, San Jose (owned by Ottawa), Los Angeles, Anaheim, New Jersey and Buffalo—along with eight placeholders for the teams who will be eliminated in the qualifying round. Those 15 slots will have the same odds as previous years.
Should one of the bottom seven teams win the first, second or third pick, they will be awarded it. If those any of those picks are won by a placeholder, there will be a second lottery held after the qualifying round is over to determine which eliminated team is awarded it. Once those two lotteries are completed, the remaining 12 spots will be assigned in inverse order of their regular season points percentage.
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will take place after the conclusion of the 2019-20 playoffs.
It is important to note that though this will be the format should the NHL resume, that is not yet a guarantee. As Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild explained recently to Michael Russo of The Athletic (subscription required), there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome just to get teams into their hub cities.
Rangers, imo, are a huge sleeper
@acarneglia – Sssssshhhhhh! Let NYR lurk in the weeds until it’s time to pounce! :)
Thats an awfully confusing draft lottery that will inevitably end with the Rangers, Blackhawks and Canadians having the top 3 picks
Correct, end up in the playoffs and draft lottery. NHL needs or rethink that. They want to give teams that had a slim chance to make the playoffs a spot in this format then the teams should be willing to give up their draft lottery spot I’d they win
@TJECK109 – Nice idea – I like!
if you win your qualifying round you aren’t in the lottery
Rangers definitely get a lottery pick. They own their pick AND Carolina’s first from the Skjei deal.
@Josip. It’s not a round-robin for those teams, they play series. The top four teams in each conference play a round robin.
@anthonyd4412 – Josip has learned from the best (or most annoying) – me! ;)
I’m assuming next season will get pushed back.
Pretty much a guarantee. Bettman was already expecting to push back next season to December
KC has like Sprint Center Cable Damier,Hy-Vee Arena and Orlando where NBA would play at Disney/Amway Arena have the same amount of Arena’s as Toronto does.
Have to say that I’m confused about the hub cities under consideration here. Except for Dallas, all the other cities appear to still be under some type of lockdown situation. Wouldn’t it make more sense to consider states that have reopened their states like Florida, Tennessee or Arizona? Fans aren’t going to be allowed in to watch anyway, so location really isn’t predicated on ticket sales.
what difference does it make if it’s under lockdown then? I mean it’s actually safer for players in those cities.
bc is probably in one of the best spots right now if trends continue as they have limited cases significantly.
Because arenas are closed during lockdowns. How can you tell people not to leave their homes except for only “essential” reasons and then open up sports venues? A bit hypocritical, don’t you think?
They probably don’t want players going to cities where there is more risk of exposure.
States that have opened up are doing just fine. Warm weather has this effect on viruses. Happens every year!
But how would you like to be told that you can’t eat in a resturant, can’t go to a gym, can’t get a haircut or even go to work because your job was declared “non-essential”, only to see the downtown arena opened up for sports to be played. Something wrong with that picture.
while I don’t necessarily disagree with this, the fact is most provinces and states already have or will allow these teams to play.
again it’s different everywhere so a blanket situation doesn’t work. Vancouver and Edmonton in Canada are much further ahead in their recoveries than Toronto and some US states have moved forward without caring about the numbers
Nah he meant Dallas Edmonton
In all fairness teams as host cities shouldn’t be playing at home
@Gubb1 – That might be true if the home team in the host city were able to stay in their own homes and come and go as they please. But, as it stands now, they would be forced to stay in the same hotel as the other teams, and with no fans in attendance, lose their otherwise valued home ice advantage.
I believe the proposal states that a team in the playoffs can’t play in their own arena. So Edmonton if chosen would host the East playoffs and Pittsburgh, if chosen would host the west.
So, the NHL rewards teams who wouldn’t make the playoffs like Montreal & Chicago by expanding the playoffs, but they punish the team’s with the best records by forcing to play for seeding in a round robin. Philadelphia who is 11 points behind Boston and Dallas, who is 12 points behind St. Louis, can jump up to be the top seed. That completely devalues the regular season. The NHL is placing more importance on three games that are played after a long layoff than they are on the rest of the season. That doesn’t make sense at all.
Eric, you were no doubt listening to Bettman & Daly this afternoon, like me, and may have seen his bullet point stating “Playoffs Competition, Tradition and Integrity.” I’m guessing if we were both on a split screen there may have been a simultaneous “WHAT???” from each of us. Honestly, I have said much worse than “doesn’t make sense at all”, so I applaud you for that. I believe that there are thousands of fans in other markets that are throwing up their hands in frustration and anger. What a shocker – Bettman & Co. strike again. Many of my fellow PHR contributors don’t agree with my stance of the 68-game season with the usual tiebreakers and a proper 16-team playoff format. That’s OK, but listening to interweb radio shows airing in a couple of other markets, though, it turns out many more people also share my idea. Bettman’s throwing that “tradition thing” out of the window and almost turning the Draft into a clown show. Now, I realize that we have many and varied opinions on how to finish the season, and I’m certainly not saying my idea is the only one to be considered. Far from it. Thing is, Bettman is desperate to chase $$$ that may prove to be phantoms. I get that this is a business that depends on “butts in the seats”, but many of us fans are disapproving of this plan right from the get-go. And, a couple of excellent points were made by others stating the obvious: more players in each hub city may very well increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, which could run through some or all of the teams there (worst-case). If all goes well, though, Bettman will break his own arm patting himself on the back. Remember, guys, if *you* are OK with 24-teams, that is certainly your prerogative. Not all of us are, and would much rather have a cleaner finality to the season and no funny business with the Draft. Bettman and others were quick to state “You can’t please everybody”, but for many of us, he’s not trying to please *anybody*…
I’m still amazed that people cry about seeding! Lol there is no home Ice advantage and like every other playoffs………….you have to beat everyone to win a cup!!! Who cares who your team plays in whatever round if they lose they’re still out so don’t lose that’s playoff hockey
The Borders need to be opened for this to happen. Won’t happen until at least June 21st, and if things do not start getting better the border closure could be extended by months. It is nice to see optimism that it could happen, but realistically, the season is over.
@Amni – It appears they have created a sketchy exemption for NHL’ers (maybe others, too), but they will still be in mandatory quarantine for two weeks after they get back. Unless, of course they also change that rule in the middle of the game…
Sorry bout your luck. PM in canada said sports athletes arent essential workers. And they WILL have to quarantine if the borders are still closed. Nice try though.
Doobiejc you sound like your fun at parties
@bigdaddyt – Picturing his resemblance to Pat Paulsen? ;)
This is the bigger hurdle Bettman has to jump over. The league can make all the plans they want, but we’re in political season now and the agendas of politicians in some areas are at odds with opening up arenas to play hockey in. Being from Pennsylvania, I have no idea how Pittsburgh is on the list of hub cities, as this state has one of the most restrictive “stay at home” orders in the country.
amni I don’t think that’s realistic. I mean even if it’s open but requires quarantine, the nhl will just do that prior to games getting underway.
if it’s like Canada, the teams only would have been listed as a hub if the nhl was assured by the government.