Report: NHL and NHLPA working on 24-team conference-based playoff

By WGR 550 SportsRadio
According to a report from Sportsnet hockey insider Elliotte Friedman on Wednesday, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association are working on a 24-team conference-based playoff format that would hopefully take place this summer when, and if the league returns to action this summer.

The NHL and NHLPA are working on a 24-team conference-based playoff setup, multiple sources have indicated to @FriedgeHNIC.

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 20, 2020

According to this proposed playoff format, it would feature a play-in round with the top-four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference (based on points percentage) earning byes for the opening round. That means that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers would earn the byes in the Eastern Conference, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars would be exempt in the Western Conference.

While these eight teams would earn an automatic spot in the 16-team playoff after the play-in round, Friedman says that they would participate in a three-game in-conference tournament to get some playing time.

The play-in round of the playoffs will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed for the chance to play the four-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed to play the three-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed to play the two-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to play the top-seed in the conference.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:

5 - Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 - Montreal Canadiens

6 - Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 - New York Rangers

7 - New York Islanders vs. 10 - Florida Panthers

8 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 - Columbus Blue Jackets


Western Conference:

5 - Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 - Chicago Blackhawks

6 - Nashville Predators vs. 11 - Arizona Coyotes

7 - Vancouver Canucks vs.  10 - Minnesota Wild

8 - Calgary Flames vs. 9 - Winnipeg Jets

Friedman also reports that the play-in round will be a best-of-five series, while the rest of the playoffs will be a best-of-seven series. 

However, the only question that Friedman had with this playoff format was for the purpose of the three-game in-conference tournament for the top-four seeds and if it had any impact on the next round of the playoffs.

"They're going to play against each other. In the East, Boston, Tampa, [Philadelphia> and Washington are going to play one game against each other while those best-of-fives are going on, so they'll get three games," Friedman said with Andrew Peters and Craig Rivet on The Instigators on Thursday. "I'm not really sure if they can move around, and no body was willing to give me an answer on that."

Sportsnet's Chris Johnston adds to Friedman's report that this proposal has not been finalized, and that this is more about how the 24-team system would work. Some of the other issues at hand that still need to be discussed include testing protocols, hub cities, visas and more.

Johnston also says that the NHLPA's executive board is scheduled to have a conference call on Thursday to discuss more return to play matters.

You can listen to Friedman's entire interview with The Instigators below: