According to W.B. Philp of The Sports Daily, the National Hockey League is looking at various formats regarding how to conclude their 2019-20 season. One option that is currently receiving some interest is canceling the rest of the regular season and going right to a 24 team playoff.
Philp states that “the top six teams from each division meet in one city.” Unfortunately, this is where the problem lies. When the NHL went into its coronavirus pause, the top six teams from each division are not the 24 best teams in the NHL.
In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers, which is currently the seventh-best team in the Metropolitan Division, has 79 points. They have more points than the fourth, fifth, and sixth place teams in the Atlantic Division.
Under the proposed format discussed by Philp, the Rangers would be eliminated from the playoffs even though they are 9 wins above .500. It just does not make much sense that the Florida Panthers (78 points), Montreal Canadiens (71 points) and Buffalo Sabres (68 points) would all reach the playoffs, even though they are behind the Rangers in the standings.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, there is another original-six team that would not make the playoffs if they went to the top six teams in each division. Despite being in the basement in the Central Division with 72 points, the Chicago Blackhawks currently have more points than the sixth-placed team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks, at 63 points.
The NHL would clearly benefit by having the Blackhawks and Rangers in the postseason. Simply put, Chicago and New York are two major American markets. Instead of the top six teams in each division, the fairest format is to have the top 12 teams in each conference.
In New York, left winger Artemi Panarin of Korkino, Russia has had a phenomenal first season for the Rangers after spending two seasons each with the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. Panarin already has career highs in goals (32), assists (63) and points (95). He is also tied for second with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers in assists and tied for third with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins in points.
In Chicago, Patrick Kane of Buffalo, NY, has been the heart and soul of the Blackhawks. The 2016 Hart Trophy winner currently leads the Blackhawks in goals (33), assists (51), and points (84).