There are some different scenarios floating around regarding an NHL restart, but the one that seems to be gaining the most traction is cutting out the rest of the regular season and jumping straight to the playoffs - a 24-team playoff instead of the usual 16.
With eight extra teams, the question becomes how do you handle the opening round of this new-look postseason?
There was talk of giving the top eight teams byes to the second round (ala the NHL’s 70s style format) or having the top two teams from each six-team division or group or pod - whatever you want to call it -play each other for to determine the division-winner while the other teams play an elimination round, so no one is sitting and waiting.
After seeing others, including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, posit a different idea, playing a round-robin format to start the playoffs, I have to say after giving it some thought, I think that’s the best way to go, as long as the system is weighted in favor of the higher seeds.
Here’s how it would work. Five of the six teams would take points into the round-robin based on seeding, with the top seeds taking ten points in and the bottom seed taking zero.
Let’s look at the standings of a hypothetical six-team Atlantic Division Hub before a round-robin game is played.
- Boston Bruins - 10 points
- Tampa Bay Lightning - 8 points
- Toronto Maple Leafs - 6 points
- Florida Panthers - 4 points
- New York Rangers - 2 points
- Montreal Canadiens - 0 points
Each team will play against the others once with the points gained being added to the total above. The top four teams would advance to the second round with 1 playing 4 and 2 playing 3. The teams that finish fifth and sixth in the opening would head back home.
Now, this may seem a little funky, but the three main advantages in my eyes are:
The top seeds wouldn’t be penalized by not playing as they would if there was a bye
Remember what happened to the Panthers when they came back from their late January break and faced a Montreal team that had two post All-Star Game tilts under its belt? That’s something you absolutely want to avoid to open the playoffs.
Everyone gets to play five games
I am not a big fan of having any best of three series (unless this is absolutely necessary due to a time crunch) as the possibility of upsets galore is just too great. And if you are going to make the players come back, giving everyone five games seems fair. if the league went a different route and started with best of five series, there is no guarantee there wouldn’t be a lot of three-game sweeps and for the players on the losing side of sweep, things would be over really quick. Not sure that’s worth coming back for. On top of that, having every time play five games will help everyone work the rust off and make for a better second round.
The top seeds have a huge advantage in advancing
This is what you want... The really good teams like Boston and Tampa Bay advancing to the second 16-team round (the real playoffs if you will) and teams like Montreal, who wouldn’t have made the playoffs under normal circumstances, having a very tough road to hoe to make it out of the round-robin.
Do you like the idea of starting a 24-team with a weighted round-round group stage?
This poll is closed
I like a round-robin, but start everyone off with zero points
No - give the top eight teams a bye
No - let the top two teams in each division play for 1-2 seeding