What a 24-team NHL Playoff might look like

Updated: May 14, 2020 at 12:58 pm by Brock Seguin

It has been 64 days since the NHL season was paused and life as we knew it has been altered dramatically due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the last two months, fans have turned to things like video games, Twitch streams, Netflix and online poker for entertainment but we could have real sports back soon.

We recently learned that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman fully expects the NHL season to resume and award the Stanley Cup to a team in the next few months. According to Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News, Bettman said “not something I’m even contemplating” when asked about ending the season without a Champion.

With lockdown restrictions easing around North America, the hope for the season to resume is starting to look more like a reality.

According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, a 24-team playoff format is “gaining momentum” and seems to be “the front-runner” right now. However, it’s a fluid situation, which is a term you’re probably sick of hearing at this point.

If the NHL returns with a 24-team playoff format, what could it look like?

In my mind, scrapping the Divisional playoff idea is the first place to start. Give the top-4 teams in each conference a “bye” and let the No.5 through No.12 seeds fight it out for the remaining four spots in each conference. That round will likely be a quick best-of-3 and get us to the traditional 16-team, best-of-7 playoff that we’re used to.

This makes sense because you aren’t having to make a decision whether the @Columbus Blue Jackets gets in on points or the @New York Islanders get in on points-percentage. It also gives teams like the Minnesota Wild, who are just one point back of the Wild Card a chance as well. However, the @Chicago Blackhawks and @Montreal Canadiens would emerge as the biggest winners of this format. Montreal was a .500 team through 71 games but you have to think the NHL wouldn’t mind having two more Original 6 teams in the playoffs.

Divisional winners would likely be awarded the No.1 and No.2 seeds in each conference but that’s as far as divisions will go. After the “play-in” round, the No.1 seed will play the lowest remaining seed, No.2 plays the second-lowest and so on. Now we have 16 teams, 8 teams per conference and we are back to normal life. At least in the hockey world…without fans in the stands.

What would the “Play-in” Round look like?

Eastern Conference Standings

*teams are ranked by Points% with RW as a tie-breaker*

1

@Boston Bruins * 44-14-12 100 0.714

2

@Washington Capitals * 41-20-8 90 0.652

3

@Tampa Bay Lightning 43-21-6 92 0.657

4

@Philadelphia Flyers 41-21-7 89 0.645

5

@Pittsburgh Penguins 40-23-6 86 0.623

6

@Carolina Hurricanes 38-25-5 81 0.596

7

New York Islanders 35-23-10 80 0.588

8

@Toronto Maple Leafs 36-25-9 81 0.579

9

Columbus Blue Jackets 33-22-15 81 0.579

10

@Florida Panthers 35-26-8 78 0.565

11

@New York Rangers 37-28-5 79 0.564

12

Montreal Canadiens 31-31-9 71 0.500

Matchups

[No.5] Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens [No.12]

[No.6] Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers [No.11]

[No.7] New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers [No.10]

[No.8] Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets [No.9]

Western Conference Standings

*teams are ranked by Points% with RW as a tie-breaker*

1

@St Louis Blues * 42-19-10 94 0.662

2

@Vegas Golden Knights * 39-24-8 86 0.606

3

@Colorado Avalanche 42-20-8 92 0.657

4

@Dallas Stars 37-24-8 82 0.594

5

@Edmonton Oilers 37-25-9 83 0.585

6

@Nashville Predators 35-26-8 78 0.565

7

@Vancouver Canucks 36-27-6 78 0.565

8

@Calgary Flames 36-27-7 79 0.564

9

@Winnipeg Jets 37-28-6 80 0.563

10

Minnesota Wild 35-27-7 77 0.558

11

@Arizona Coyotes 33-29-8 74 0.529

12

@Chicago Blackhawks 32-30-8 72 0.514

Matchups

[No.5] Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks [No.12]

[No.6] Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes [No.11]

[No.7] Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild [No.10]

[No.8] Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets [No.9]

NHL 20 Simulation

This weekend I will be conducting a simulation of the 24-team playoff to see how it might work out if the NHL returns with this format. Check back daily for updates on how each round played out.

  • – Friday: Play-In Round
  • – Saturday: First-Round
  • – Sunday: Second-Round
  • – Monday: Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final

NHL, NHL Playoffs