What a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff format might seem like, and what questions nonetheless must be answered

Whereas the NHL season has remained on pause since March 12 as a result of COVID-19, the league stays hopeful that will probably be capable of play this season to a conclusion. The NHL and NHLPA launched a joint assertion on Wednesday saying that they hope to have the ability to re-open crew services and resume small group coaching someday in Could, realistically within the mid-to-late portion of the month.

But when the league is actually capable of return to motion, we’re nonetheless not fairly positive what the plan can be when it comes to ending out the season. In Thursday’s assertion, the NHL/NHLPA stated they “have not made any decisions or set a timeline for possible return to play scenarios.” The league is reportedly prioritizing ending the 82-game common season slate or having groups play to a shortened whole of video games (presumably 76 or 78), which is smart from a enterprise standpoint contemplating every crew has native TV and sponsorship offers to satisfy. 

However there’s an opportunity {that a} time crunch or logistical complications might power the NHL into forgoing the remainder of the common season and leaping straight into the postseason. If that is the case, the NHL must resolve what’s the fairest and most balanced strategy to method seeding the playoffs. With an uneven variety of video games being performed between groups, the league may select to seed a standard playoff format primarily based on factors proportion (proportion of factors earned primarily based on doable whole). We have lined what that might seem like, and have even run a full simulation to discover a winner in such a state of affairs.

Nonetheless, what if the NHL decides to get somewhat extra artistic and inclusive in its straight-to-postseason plan? The NHLPA is reportedly favoring a 24-team postseason mannequin, one that might broaden the playoff image as a way of seeding and limiting the variety of fringe groups that might really feel robbed by an abrupt finish to the common season.

Here is what that might doubtlessly entail, based on Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:

  • 4 league cities (presumably unfold throughout america and Canada) would host division-based playoff “tournaments”
  • Every of the league’s 4 divisions could be assigned a metropolis (or hub), with the highest six groups from every division qualifying for the postseason and reporting to their respective hub
  • Every division’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds would play one another (best-of-three sequence) to resolve a division winner
  • Every division’s No. three seed would play the No. 6 seed, whereas the No. four would face No. 5 in a best-of-three for the appropriate to maintain taking part in
  • That would depart 4 remaining playoff qualifiers from every division (16 whole playoff groups) and a seeding construction to play a extra conventional Stanley Cup playoff match

A couple of dozen groups/cities are reportedly bidding on the chance to behave as a hub on this state of affairs however let’s spotlight 4 reported bidders for the sake of this train: Edmonton (Pacific), St. Paul (Central), Raleigh (Metropolitan) and Tampa (Atlantic). Here is what the playoff eventualities would seem like:

Atlantic (Tampa)

  1. Boston Bruins (.714 factors proportion)
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning (.657)
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs (.579)
  4. Florida Panthers (.565)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (.500)
  6. Buffalo Sabres (.493)

Eradicated: Ottawa Senators (.437), Detroit Purple Wings (.275)

Greatest-of-three matchups:

  • Bruins vs. Lightning (division title)
  • Maple Leafs vs. Sabres (elimination sequence)
  • Panthers vs. Canadiens (elimination sequence)

Metropolitan (Raleigh)

  1. Washington Capitals (.652)
  2. Philadelphia Flyers (.645)
  3. Pittsburgh Penguins (.623)
  4. Carolina Hurricanes (.596)
  5. New York Islanders (.588)
  6. Columbus Blue Jackets (.579)

Eradicated: New York Rangers (.521), New Jersey Devils (.493)

Greatest-of-three matchups: 

  • Capitals vs. Flyers (division title) 
  • Penguins vs. Blue Jackets (elimination sequence)
  • Hurricanes vs. Islanders (elimination sequence)

Central (St. Paul)

  1. St. Louis Blues (.662)
  2. Colorado Avalanche (.657)
  3. Dallas Stars (.594)
  4. Nashville Predators (.565)
  5. Winnipeg Jets (.563)
  6. Minnesota Wild (.558)

Eradicated: Chicago Blackhawks (.514)

Greatest-of-three matchups:  

  • Blues vs. Avalanche (division title)
  • Stars vs. Wild (elimination sequence)
  • Predators vs. Jets (elimination sequence)

Pacific (Edmonton)

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (.606)
  2. Edmonton Oilers (.585)
  3. Vancouver Canucks (.565)
  4. Calgary Flames (.564)
  5. Arizona Coyotes (.529)
  6. Anaheim Geese (.472)

Eradicated: Los Angeles Kings (.457), San Jose Sharks (.450)

Greatest-of-three matchups:  

  • Golden Knights vs. Oilers (division title)
  • Canucks vs. Geese (elimination sequence)
  • Flames vs. Coyotes (elimination sequence)

On the conclusion of this format, there could be 4 groups remaining in every division (together with a division champion) and a clear eight groups per convention. With the seeding construction established by these mini-tournaments, the NHL would then be capable to seed a extra conventional Stanley Cup playoffs bracket, swapping out the 2 “wild card” groups per convention with lowest-seeded surviving groups from every division. 

From there, there are nonetheless questions that encompass the “traditional” bracket portion. Will sequence stay best-of-seven? Will all video games be performed in a single impartial location? Will lower-seeded groups must journey to the hub of a higher-seeded opponent in one other division? These are issues that also must be answered.

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