Nashville Predators: Creative Playoff Format Gaining Some Steam

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presents the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Stanley Cup after their 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presents the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Stanley Cup after their 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

There’s still no clear idea when and if the NHL regular season or postseason will ever be completed, but there’s one intriguing idea that’s gaining some steam.

Everything is speculation at this point on how the NHL will complete the 2019-20 season, and what that will mean for the Nashville Predators and their quest to make a return to the playoffs for a fifth-straight season.

The Predators narrowly got into a wildcard spot just before the season was put on an indefinite pause back in mid-March. They were appearing to play their best hockey of what’s been a troubling and inconsistent season for them.

During this pause, several different creative ideas have been thrown out there on what the NHL should do, and how it can be done in a fair way later this summer.

This latest idea as it pertains to some sort of a playoff format, per a report from Mark Spector of Sportsnet, is really intriguing and looks somewhat realistic more than any other idea I’ve seen.

The playoff format idea

This idea pertains to if there ends up being no more regular season games being played. The clock is ticking on having the necessary time to scramble to finish nearly 200 regular season games that still have to be played.

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The top-6 of each division will get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. The way these teams are seeded is creative, to say the least, but seems to have the most popularity.

This format would pit the Nashville Predators as the 5th-seed team against the 4th-seed Winnipeg Jets in an opening series that would be at a “neutral” site that could hold multiple playoff games in one day.

The Chicago Blackhawks would be left out of the playoffs in this scenario, despite being five points out with 12 regular season games left. Not much of an argument to make about leaving them out.

What’s really different about this playoff format is pitting the top-two teams in each division against each other to crown a division winner. That kind of penalizes the top teams by giving them a tougher opponent in the opening round.

Doesn’t really make sense to do that. Your goal should be for those teams to get some type of a reward for finishing at the top of their division.

As it pertains to the Central Division, the Dallas Stars would play the Minnesota Wild, while the Colorado Avalanche would take on the St.Louis Blues. All deserving playoff teams that can make some noise.

All three would be interesting playoff battles to watch, but I’m still not sure about pitting the top-two against each other. Maybe there’s no better way to really do it. Again, we’re in uncharted territory.

My idea is to use the top-6 teams, but give the top-2 in the division each a bye. They play the winners of the other two series. The division title can be decided based off of point percentages, and your division winners would be St.Louis, Vegas, Boston and Washington.

Other interesting takeaways

When it comes to selecting sites for these “tournament” style games, they obviously want to have the healthy and safety of NHL personnel and players at the forefront. For that to happen, travel needs to be minimized and no fans should probably attend.

According to this report, winning a bid to host these games is directly tied to the COVID-19 outbreak level in those cities. This is absolutely a critical decision to make, and one that they don’t have much time to ponder over.

Travel comes into account as well, but one city they mention as a front-runner of sorts is Edmonton, Alberta thanks to its infrastructure of hotels for everyone who may have to remain on site for several weeks as the season is completed.

Then you have the fate of the 2020-21 season also hanging in the balance. If the NHL is indeed committed to completing this current season in some sort of fashion, then there’s really no way around the fact that you’re going to affect next season as well.

A telling quote from an unnamed person in this report states that they want fans attending the games when next season starts, and would rather push the start of next season back into December possibly.

No one really knows, and that’s just fine

So many questions, and still no clear answers. But the NHL seems to be doing their due diligence to be ready to charge right out of the gate with a complex and safe plan as soon as health officials start giving the green light.

I’ve been impressed with how the NHL has approached this. They’re coming up with many different plans of action just in case the green light is there to safely complete the 2019-20 season. But safety for everyone involved, and protecting the integrity of the game by giving the players ample time to train for playoff games is also incredibly important.

If we do end up getting a NHL postseason that follows this creative idea that’s gaining popularity, then it’s anyone’s guess who comes out on top. We’ve never seen anything like this for a major sports league to drastically start back up right in the playoffs.

The Predators, with their undeniably high talent on the roster, would have just as good of a chance as anyone to get hot at the right time and go the distance. No one can really predict how the players will respond both physically and mentally to returning to the rink right in playoff mode.

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It would be with an asterisk, but still nice to see hockey return if it’s safe to do so, and see the loyal Predators fans have something to rally behind. Even if they can’t be in attendance with thousands of their extended family members at Bridgestone Arena.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.