It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, the NHL is moving forward with the 24-team playoff format that was proposed to players this week. Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now reported on Friday evening that it’s “Game On” in the NHL.
Murphy also added that the NHLPA made it very clear that safety is paramount in this situation.
Writing now for @BOSHockeyNow but as I just told @TheDanKingerski of @pghhockeyNOW and following up on @TSNBobMcKenzie report, it's 'GAME ON!' for NHL Return To Play proposal! However, the message was sent from @NHLPA that safety is paramount!— MurphysLaw74 (@MurphysLaw74) May 22, 2020
The NHL’s 24-team playoff format will see 12 teams in each conference make the playoffs. The top four teams, via points percentage, will receive a bye into the field of 16. In the Western Conference, those teams will be the Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.
The Oilers, thanks to their loss on March 11th to the Winnipeg Jets, are fifth in the west via points percentage. That means, instead of making the playoffs, the Oilers are now forced into a best-of-five play-in series against the 12th seed. In this case, that will be the Chicago Blackhawks.
The top four teams, meanwhile, would play a series of games against each other. It is unknown if those games will just be exhibitions, or will be used to determine seeds 1-4.
The only thing voted on and approved was the playoff format. There are still many hurdles to climb before an official return to play is set. The league needs to figure out the hub city situation. Originally, the league planned to use four hubs for the resumption of the season. Now, that appears to have been cut down to two.
Edmonton has made an enticing pitch to be one of those hub cities, but their status is unknown. Vegas is an overwhelming favorite to be one of the two cities, while Columbus has made a major push as well. Vancouver and Toronto have also expressed interest in hosting games.
The expectation is that the NHL will have players return to skate in small groups as early as June 1st, with a three-week training camp following shortly after. No official date for the start of the 24-team playoff has been determined yet. That said, July 1st has been a long rumored potential target date for games to resume.
The vote was completed Friday evening and was not unanimous, per Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski. The PA has not yet officially announced the tally, but word began to leak the voting was concluding and approval expected, per Kingerski.
More as it unfolds.