Report: NHLPA executive committee approves NHL’s Return To Play format

By WGR 550 SportsRadio
According to multiple reports, the National Hockey League Players' Association has approved a proposed 24-team playoff format by the National Hockey League in its Return To Play initiative.

If that is indeed the case, and I believe team by team balloting has concluded or will conclude shortly, it should pave the way for the NHL and NHLPA to perhaps formally announce the RTP format in the coming days.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 22, 2020

TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie was the first to report the news on Friday, and also added that once the balloting process has been concluded, it could eventually lead the NHL and the NHLPA to formally announce the Return To Play format in the coming days. However, when the NHL and NHLPA do announce the format, McKenzie did say not to expect any timetables or critical date roll-outs.

While the proposal has been reportedly approved by the NHLPA, McKenzie reported in the early morning hours on Friday that there was some backlash with this proposal. McKenzie says that the NHLPA conference call that took place on Thursday night was "spirited, if not raucous," and that Executive Director of the NHLPA, Donald Fehr had already given the mandate to accept the NHL's proposal, but "not overwhelmingly so."

David Pagnotta from reports that there is still plenty of work to be done with with final Return To Play initiative, but if everything else with discussions go well, he says that training camps would start in early July, with games set to start later in the month.

Hearing the 24-team return-to-play format will be approved by NHLPA, but there's A LOT more work to be done. To put in perspective, if the rest of planning goes well, I'm told camps won't start until early-July & could run 3 weeks, which would lead to starting play at end of July

— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) May 22, 2020

Pagnotta also adds that the Stanley Cup might not be awarded until the end of September, and depending on when fans can re-enter the arenas, the start of the 2020-21 NHL season could come any time between late November and early January.

According to the 24-team playoff format, it will 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, they would participate in a three-game in-conference tournament that could have an impact on the seeding in the top-four.

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

The play-in round will be a best-of-five series, while the rest of the playoffs will be a best-of-seven series. 

The seven teams in the league that will miss out on the playoffs will be the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings.

Keep it locked to WGR and for the latest on this developing story.