NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the (almost) finalized 24-team playoff format for the 2019-2020 season as well as how the league will handle the draft lottery yesterday.
What we still don’t know is the date of either event, which is rather fitting for the current state of the world.
A lot of the details regarding the playoff format have been known for the last few days, with only a few i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed after the NHLPA executive board voted to approve the NHL’s Return to Play Committee’s proposal late last week.
The 24 teams, qualification (or play-in) round match-ups and basic set-up of the remainder of the playoffs were all confirmed by Mr. Bettman yesterday.
Here are some other things that were also confirmed during the announcement:
There will be just two hub cities instead of the initially rumored four, with each housing 12 teams from one of the league’s two conference. The two cities haven’t been decided yet. That will happen when the actual timing of the start of the postseason is better known.
It looks there are ten cities vying for the two hub spots: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. Both hubs could end up being out west, the locations chosen will have a lot to do with the state of the coronavirus pandemic at the time, with Bettman saying this:
“We’re not hung up on East/West, we’re going to go to the places that are the safest and make the most sense medically at the time.”
* In each Conference, teams seeded by points percentage.
Round Robin: The top 4 teams play for First Round seeding (regular-season overtime rules in effect)
Qualifying Round: The remaining 8 teams play best-of-5 series to advance to the First Round (playoff overtime rules in effect)
First Round and Second Round: Format (seeding vs. bracket) and series lengths to be determined
Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-7 series
* The winners from the Qualifying Round play the top 4 seeds in the First Round. Individual First Round series matchups remain to be determined.
The top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the east and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the west) will play three round-robin games each other that could adjust their current seeding order, which is based on points percentage. These games will be played with regular season rules; a 3-on-3 overtime and shootout formats. Should ties in the round-robin standings occur, they will be broken by regular-season points percentage.
The bottom 8 teams of the 12 from each conference will play a best-of-five elimination round to get things down to the standard 16-team playoff format. These series will take place using playoffs rules (obviously).
The other Eastern Conference series will be: Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs Montreal Canadiens (12), Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs New York Rangers (11) and Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (9).
The Western Conference series will be: Edmonton Oilers (5) vs Chicago Blackhawks (12), Nashville Predators (6) vs Arizona Coyotes (11), Vancouver Canucks (7) vs Minnesota Wild (10) and Calgary Flames (8) vs Winnipeg Jets (9).
What happens once the actual playoffs start remains unknown. The league is pushing for a bracketed playoff format while the players prefer that the winners of the eight play-in round series are reseeded, giving the one seed the “easiest” opponent on paper. Hypothetically, under the NHL’s format, if Boston retained its one seed, it would play the winner of the Toronto-Columbus series, while under the players format Boston would playing the lowest remaining seed after the play-in round, which would be say, Montreal if the Habs upset Pittsburgh.
The NHL draft lottery will take place on June 26, so the lottery cannot decide the full order of the bottom 15 teams as the eight teams that lose in the qualification round (that’s right, the Penguins could possibly end up with the #1 pick in the draft if they lose to Montreal) will join the seven teams listed below in the lottery. Placeholder slots will be assigned to the 8-15 teams.
Team - Points % - Odds
1. Detroit Red Wings .275 18.5%
2. Ottawa Senators .437 13.5%
3. Ottawa Senators* .437 11.5%
4. Los Angeles Kings .457 9.5%
5. Anaheim Ducks .472 8.5%
6. New Jersey Devils .493** 7.5%
7. Buffalo Sabres .493** 6.5%
8. Team A n/a 6.0%
9. Team B n/a 5.0%
10. Team C n/a 3.5%
11. Team D n/a 3.0%
12. Team E n/a 2.5%
13. Team F n/a 2.0%
14. Team G n/a 1.5%
15. Team H n/a 1.0%
* Acquired in a trade with San Jose Sharks (.450 points percentage)
** Buffalo Sabres ranked higher than New Jersey Devils on the basis of higher regulation/OT win percentage (Buffalo, .406 ROW%; New Jersey, .348 ROW%)
The top three picks will be awarded with the usual three draws to assign the top three draft slots. If one of the placeholder teams wins any of the three lottery draws, there will be a second lottery to determine which losing qualification round team actually gets that particular pick. If all three picks are won by the seven teams that didn’t make the postseason, the second lottery won’t be necessary and the rest of the top 15 draft picks will be filled in using the standings order (by points percentage) to the eight losing teams of the qualifying round.