If/when the NHL returns to play this summer, the Edmonton Oilers will be in the playoffs.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that the NHL and NHLPA are working on a 24-team playoff, an idea that has been gaining traction over the past few days according to multiple reports.
The format, Friedman says, would include eight best-of-five “play-in” series, involving the teams seeded from #5 to #12 in each conference. The top four teams in each conference would not have to play a play-in series, but would participate in their own three-game tournament to get game-ready, which will affect playoff seeding according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
The NHL return-to-play format currently under discussion allows for some jockeying among the top-four teams in each conference (BOS/TB/WASH/PHI … STL/COL/VGK/DAL). It would see them play each other — three games, in-conference — with the outcomes helping determine seeding.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2020
The bottom-seven teams in the NHL’s overall standings would not return to action this season.
The idea still needs approval from players and teams, although it appears to have a lot of benefits.
The playoffs would be conference-based with teams seeded by points percentage, meaning the Oilers would finish fifth in the Western Conference. That would set up a best-of-five series against the No. 12 seeded Chicago Blackhawks.
The winner of the Oilers-Blackhawks series would play the No. 4 seed (currently the Dallas Stars) in a seven-game series, in what would amount to the first-round of a traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs.
Just where the games will take place is still a mystery, as hub cities still need to be chosen, although it will almost certainly be held without fans. There has been some suggestion lately that the NHL will pick two hub cities (one in each conference), instead of four, which was originally being reported.
Following the eight play-in series, the NHL would be left with a 16-team Stanley Cup playoff tournament, with seven-game series to decide each round as normal.
Whether the NHL considers the play-in games to be “playoff” games will matter for a few reasons, as it could have ramifications on the draft lottery as well as completing trades like the Milan Lucic-James Neal deal.
The Oilers and Blackhawks played each other three times in 2019-20, with the Oilers winning 5-3 at Rogers Place on February 11, and the Hawks winning in Chicago on October 14 (3-1) and March 5 (4-3). Edmonton and Chicago have met in the playoffs on four previous occasions, with the Oilers winning in 1983, 1985, and 1990. The Blackhawks won their last playoff series matchup in 1992.
Here’s how the proposed format would look:
- St Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Dallas Stars
- #5 Edmonton Oilers vs #12 Chicago Blackhawks (winner plays #4)
- #6 Nashville Predators vs #11 Arizona Coyotes (winner plays #3)
- #7 Vancouver Canucks vs #10 Minnesota Wild (winner plays #2)
- #8 Calgary Flames vs #9 Winnipeg Jets (winner plays #1)
- Boston Bruins
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
- #5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #12 Montreal Canadiens (winner plays #4)
- #6 Carolina Hurricanes vs #11 New York Rangers (winner plays #3)
- #7 New York Islanders vs #10 Florida Panthers (winner plays #2)
- #8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs #9 Columbus Blue Jackets (winner plays #1)
Eliminated from contention
The bottom-seven teams:
- Buffalo Sabres
- New Jersey Devils
- Anaheim Ducks
- Los Angeles Kings
- San Jose Sharks
- Ottawa Senators
- Detroit Red Wings