With plenty of options available to the NHL when it comes to resuming play, progress is being made towards a possible playoff format. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the Return to Play Committee is leaning towards a 24-team playoff format to wrap up the 2019-20 season.
LeBrun reports, however, that there is quite a bit of work still to be done if a 24-team playoff is to become a reality, but there has been significant progress made this weekend. Talks are expected to continue over the next couple of days with the potential that a plan will officially be outlined next week as both sides are much closer on what a return to action might look like. Of course, once the Return to Play Committee does come to an agreement, it must pass through the NHL Executive Board and be approved.
On top of that, there is a Board on Governors meeting on Monday. Whether NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will have a deal ready to pass on by then is unknown unless the Return to Play Committee can come to an agreement in the next 24 hours.
The still-developing plan would not be a straight-to-the-playoffs format, however. According to LeBrun, the league will likely have some games before the playoffs would begin, likely to ease teams into playing shape after the significant break due to COVID-19. There is also the issue on whether all players will be on board to returning to action later this year as it is believed some are seriously concerned about the health and safety issues that surround a return to play.
While there are a number of 24-team format options, LeBrun writes in a separate story that there has been some opposition to a 24-team tournament, especially with teams like Chicago (32-30-8 for 72 points) and Montreal (31-31-9 for 71 points) being the last two teams to enter into the playoffs when they don’t deserve it and the concerns that a hot start after a long break could create some significant upsets in this format.