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NHL waits on NHLPA to vote on new 24-team restart. What you need to know.

Whether or not you believe that sports should return in 2020, they are getting close. Without fans, that is.

The latest out of the NHL is that the league is waiting to hear from the NHL Players’ Association on the latest proposal on how to return to play and the format they will adhere to. 

Even if everything continues to hit the fan and no play can be resumed for the 2019-20 season, it seems that everyone involved understands the critical need to make a call on the matter sooner than later.

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Under the current plan and barring any revisions from the NHLPA, 24 teams will be called back to play in the following format:

  • The top four teams in each conference will play in a three-game round-robin to get back to speed on the ice while the other eight teams in each conference will play in a best-of-five, play-in series. For Minnesota that means a 10-seed and facing off against the Vancouver Canucks.
  • The winners of the play-ins will advance to your classic 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • Although the top four seeds initially seemed to be playing a round-robin to get their feet under them, the games will count. Say the third ranked team wins all their games, there is then a shot for theme to be ranked higher (or lower if a high ranked team falters) come playoff seeding.
  • The 24 teams selected to return were chosen and ranked on the points percentage from games played up until the lockdown.

As it stands, the matchups would be as follows:

Eastern Conference

Top Seeds: Boston Bruins (1), Tampa Bay Lightning (2), Washington Capitals (3), Philadelphia Flyers (4)

Play-Ins: Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12), Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11), New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10), Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)

Western Conference

Top Seeds: St. Louis Blues (1), Colorado Avalanche (2), Vegas Golden Knights (3), Dallas Stars (4)

Play-Ins: Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12), Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11), Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10), Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)

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Now you may be asking yourself what happens to the seven teams not selected to return? To that question, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun mentioned that they “could stop focusing on plans for a return to play and place their focus elsewhere.”

This appears to be an equitable solution for teams that were hovering around a playoff berth prior to the season’s pause and with games looking to be played in a couple of cities in a bubble league style, this could work well to ensure Lord Stanley’s Cup continues to be awarded. 

With the NHLPA’s Executive Board calling for a meeting and the beginning of the voting process last night, we could be seeing hockey back in our lives come mid-June or July. 

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