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Work In Progress: 24 Team Format
The NHLPA announced yesterday it had agreed to the overall 24 team format, but there are still details that need to be ironed out.
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic/TSN, the top four teams in each conference would play in a round-robin against each other to determine seed placement. The bottom eight teams would be paired up and each square off in a best-of-five “play-in” series. The 5th ranked team would play the 12th ranked, the 6th would play 11th, and so on. The winners of the bottom eight “play-in” matchups would then play the top four teams.
The questions regarding the format come after the “play-in” round is concluded according to LeBrun.
One detail is once down to 16 teams, should the official first round of the playoffs be a best-of-5 like the “play-in” round or the traditional best-of-7. Shortening the number of games would help the NHL get through the process faster, which has been an obvious concern as the league also tries to plan the start of the 2020-21 season.
On the other side, there is a desire to play as many games as possible for fan interest and also the financial benefit of media and advertising. The league will have to balance these interests(along with safety) as they try to decide how many games are played in each round moving forward.
The second detail is how the matchups should be determined once down to 16 teams. There are discussions as to whether the brackets in each conference should be set from the beginning, which is the current format of the NHL playoffs.
The other idea would be to go back to the old re-seeding method after the first round, in which matchups are determined by seed placement. For example if the 8th place team beats the first-place team, then in the next round the 8th place team would have to face the next highest seed. The remaining two teams in the middle would then square off in the second round.
The shortening of any of the early rounds shouldn’t be a major issue. The league should keep the best-of-7 series for at least the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final as I have mentioned several times on the podcast. Given the importance of those matchups they should be played to the maximum games allowable.
In regard to re-seeding, I have favored it under normal circumstances when once used in the past because it benefits the higher-ranked teams and it also makes the playoffs more interesting as the matchups aren’t predetermined from the onset. Of course, these aren’t normal times so either structure could work given that this is basically like restarting a new season due to the long break.
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May 23rd, 2020