More details are emerging on what a potential 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs could look like, and it makes interesting reading for the Vegas Golden Knights.
It was reported on Sunday by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic that positive discussions had taken place between the NHL and the NHLPA Return to Play Committee, with real hope emerging that the Vegas Golden Knights could be on the cusp of returning to the ice.
The focus of those talks revolved around an expanded 24-team Playoff format, with further discussions expected this week.
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Granted, there are still a lot of kinks to be ironed out and nothing is concrete but we appear to be heading towards a solid solution to resurrecting the 2019-20 NHL season.
Per both Friedman and Johnston, the top seeds in the East and the top seeds in the West would receive byes through the Play-In Round, although a three-game tournament between those teams would be staged in order to allow them to shake off any rink rust.
The Golden Knights would be the third seed in the West along with the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars, while the top four seeds in the East would be the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers.
The top seeds would be decided by points percentage, by the way.
Now, the three-game tournament is an interesting idea because it solves the problem of having to cram in regular season games, while still giving the Golden Knights and the other top seeds an opportunity to get back into a groove before heading into the postseason.
The rest of the teams would then contest a best-of-five Play-In series, with the format bracketed so, in both conferences, it would be 5 vs. 12 (winner plays the four seed), 6 vs. 11 (winner plays the three seed), 7 vs. 10 (winner plays the two seed) and 8 vs. 9 (winner plays the one seed).
These would be the best-of-five Play-In matchups according to Friedman:
- Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. Montreal Canadiens
- Carolina Hurricanes Vs. New York Rangers
- New York Islanders Vs. Florida Panthers
- Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
- Edmonton Oilers Vs. Chicago Blackhawks
- Nashville Predators Vs. Arizona Coyotes
- Vancouver Canucks Vs. Minnesota Wild
- Calgary Flames Vs. Winnipeg Jets
Once the Play-In round is done, the postseason would go back to a best-of-seven series and that ensures the integrity of the Stanley Cup is still very much protected.
In the case of the Golden Knights, they would still be playing the same amount of games to win Lord Stanley as they would in any normal year, so this format means there should be no asterisk placed next to the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Champion.
I strongly disagree with anyone who suggests otherwise.
After all, most teams will have to play away from their home ice for the postseason, while adapting to having no fans or atmosphere inside the building.
The road to the Stanley Cup this year will be much tougher, and whoever comes out on top to claim the greatest prize in all of sports would have really earned it.
Anyway, back to the proposal and the Golden Knights would likely play the winner of the Predators Vs. Coyotes Play-In in the First Round proper if that’s how it shakes up.
Nashville is probably the toughest matchup given Arizona’s post-Trade Deadline struggles, although whoever wins that Play-In will have momentum on their side.
The more I hear about this 24-team Playoff format the more I like it and I think it could make for fascinating and compelling TV.
After all, you would have both the Rangers and the Islanders in the Eastern Conference, and that could make for one hell of a matchup later down the road.
Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby would have to contend with a refreshed and recharged Carey Price in the Play-In, good luck with that, while we would get to see Connor McDavid in action on the big stage at the most important time of the year.
Vancouver with their core of elite young talent would be entertaining to watch too, and the teams involved should ensure that the Stanley Cup is as competitive as ever despite the difficult circumstances we are currently dealing with.
This format would tick a lot of boxes for the Golden Knights too. They would get a bye as a top seed, but they would still be given three games to knock off any rust, get players back into a groove and gear up for a best-of-seven series against either the Predators or the Coyotes.
Again, the NHL and the NHLPA Return to Play Committee still have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to Testing and Hub Cities, but it appears as though both parties are in agreement on a format that would work for the many and not just for the few.
Also, with the NBA honing in on Disney as a single Hub City, it appears as though Vegas could be the answer to the NHL’s prayers.
We’ve covered it at length before but Vegas ticks a lot of boxes as a Hub City for the Western Conference, and six sheets of ice in the area should be enough for 12 teams.
There are a bevy of hotels right next to T-Mobile Arena that can be used to space out teams and front office staff, while T-Mobile Arena itself is more than equipped to host a number of teams at once.
Overall, staging a 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs across two cities seems to be gathering momentum and the Vegas Golden Knights could find themselves right at the heart of it.
We now wait for more discussions to take place and for the skeleton of this plan to really start taking place.