While NHL teams and players wait at home for news about when (if) the 2019-20 season will resume, the league held a conference call Wednesday in order to discuss a number of possibilities.
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, the NHL has proposed the likelihood of forgoing the rest of the regular season and that the potential for an expanded playoff format has “gained traction” over the last few days. LeBrun also mentioned that the possibility of a 16 or 20 team format are still on the table. Participants and seedings would be determined by points percentage since the league was put on hold with teams having played different numbers of games.
According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, everything is still on the table but he gave us an outline of how some teams think the expanded playoffs could work:
Rumors about a potential 24-team tournament have started spreading on social media because multiple NHL front offices believe that’s the preferred direction under these special circumstances. According to sources, that format would see eight teams get a bye — Boston, Tampa, Washington and Philadelphia in the East, and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Edmonton in the West — while the next 16 participate in a best-of-three play-in.
This is a rather convoluted approach and the logic suggests that a 22-team format would be easier to execute. That said, bringing in two more teams allows the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks to participate. In a time where the league is desperately trying to re-start the season for financial purposes, it’s not a coincidence that the NHL would bend over backwards to get two more of their biggest markets into the playoffs.
Further to the reports of the format, TSN’s Frank Seravelli mentioned that a cost-benefit analysis still needs to be done by the league and that the cost of coming back this season could be higher than most expect. Testing would be the big cost. Seravelli referenced a price of $20 per test, a total that could add up to “millions or even tens of million” when you factor in the necessity for daily test for players, coaches and team officials.
In addition, there is the cost of sanitizing the arenas. Seravelli was told by two different teams that the cost to clean and sanitize is approximately $1,500 per locker room per game. These are huge costs that could outweigh any financial gain that would come from re-starting the season.
Re-starting the season isn’t going to be easy and at the end of the day, the hurdles might be too much to overcome - but the NHL is trying. The league is still in the brainstorming phase but teams are starting to leak the possibilities that they think are most likely.
At some point the Gary Bettman and Bill Daly will have to start taking the next step and actually formulate a plan for a return. We could see the traditional 16 team playoff. It could be expanded 20 or 24 teams. Heck, the idea of a March Madness-style tournament involving all 31 teams has even been floated. In other words, the league still has no real idea what they’re going to do.