With the NHL season at a halt there’s much speculation as to what should be done in regards to the NHL Playoffs and what that means for the Nashville Predators.
A leading proposal has become controversial, but I have a solution for it and discuss the different scenarios the Nashville Predators could face.
This is all uncharted territory for a major sports league to stop their regular season with so few games remaining. There are so many different ways to end this that you can argue is the best way for the NHL to put a stamp on the 2019-20 season both safely and fairly.
The Leading Proposal
According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, this is the top NHL playoff proposal the NHL is considering:
The top-6 teams in each division will each compete in the playoffs. The first round is composed of games within the same division. The No.1 and No.2 seeds would square of in a best-of-three series to see who takes home the division title, and both teams automatically advance to the next round.
Then the No.3 seed would play the No.6 seed in a best-of-three series and the No.4 seed would face the No.5 seed also in a best-of-three series.
An example for the Central Division:
1 St. Louis vs 2 Colorado
3 Dallas vs 6 Minnesota
4 Winnipeg vs 5 Nashville
This would allow four teams from each division to advance and then allow the NHL to resume to their regular best-of-seven series playoff format.
Problems with this Proposal
First, one thing we all know about the NHL playoffs is that physical teams really wear down their opponent during a playoff series.
The Philadelphia Flyers playing the Washington Capitals would be a brutally physical series. So, wouldn’t it be a disadvantage for both teams to move on and face a team who most likely had a less physical series?
The top two seeds playing each other in the first round should never happen, even if it means both teams advance.
Also take into account that the Boston Bruins would face the Tampa Bay Lightning even though Boston is eight points ahead in the standings with the same number of games played.
Secondly, this proposal punishes a deserving team and rewards two teams with losing records.
In this proposal the New York Rangers would be eliminated since they are seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 79 points. This would also allow for Montreal and Buffalo to both compete since they are fifth and sixth in the Atlantic.
However, Montreal is eight points back from the Rangers in the overall standings while having played one more game.
The Sabres are 11 points back from the Rangers with one game in hand. This means that two teams not even in the playoff picture would make it instead of a team that is in the hunt. Not to mention that the Sabres have a losing record of 30-31-8.
To make sure that all teams who were in the hunt make the NHL playoffs the league should consider ignoring division standings and focus on conference standings.
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Based on points, 11 teams in the Eastern Conference are realistically in position to make the playoffs. The cutoff in the East would be the Florida Panthers who are three points out of a wildcard spot with one game in hand. The first team out would be Montreal, since they are seven points back of Florida with two more games played.
Using this logic the Western Conference should only be able to take eleven teams as well.
In the West the cutoff would be Arizona, who is four points out of a wildcard spot and also three points from 10th-place Minnesota. The first team out would be the Chicago. Even though they were technically in the hunt, they trail a wildcard spot by six points and trail Arizona by two points.
In this proposal each of the top-five seeds would receive a bye. The first round would go like this:
10 vs.11 to then play the top seed. 7 vs. 9 to play the No.2 seed. 6 vs. 8 to play the No.3 seed. This first round would be best two out of three and then the rest of the playoffs would be best-of-seven.
In the next round, the winners of the play-in-round would face the 1, 2, or 3 seeds while the 4 and 5 seeds in the conference would also square off in the second round.
The matchups would look as follows in the opening round of the new NHL playoff format to finish the 2019-20 season with a Stanley Cup champion crowned:
10 NYR vs 11 FLA to play #1 Boston.
7 TOR vs 8 CBJ to play #2 Tampa.
6 CAR vs 9 NYI to play #3 Washington
Top half of bracket:
Winner of 10/11 vs #1 Boston
4 Philadelphia vs 5 Pittsburgh
Bottom half of Bracket:
Winner 7/8 vs #2 Tampa
Winner 6/9 vs #3 Washington
10 MIN vs 11 ARI to play #1 St. Louis.
7 CGY vs 8 NSH to play #2 Colorado.
6 WPG vs 9 VAN to play #3 Vegas.
Top half of bracket:
Winner 10/11 vs #1 St. Louis.
4 Edmonton vs 5 Dallas
Bottom half of bracket:
Winner 7/8 to play #2 Colorado.
Winner 6/9 to play #3 Vegas.
Here is a visual representation of this format,
Potential Flaw in this Format
The worst part about this proposal is that the teams playing in the play-in-round would get much needed playing time that the top-three seeds will not get.
It would be an unfair advantage for a team to play two or three games and then face a higher-seeded team that hasn’t played in months.
Somehow the higher-seeded teams would need to get playing time to even the playing field, even if it’s only a couple of exhibition games.
What this means for the Nashville Predators
Regardless, the Predators will be in the 2020 NHL playoffs, but their opponent is “to be determined”.
Judging from our history, I’d rather face Calgary over Winnipeg. After seeing the Predators’ games against Calgary this season that would definitely be the more exciting route. Anything could happen, just watch the previous meetings from this season. They were all crazy games to watch.
Hopefully the Predators have had time to refocus and can right the ship and play like the team they’ve shown brief glimpses of throughout the season.
Either scenario, the Predators will be in the NHL playoffs and have a chance to do what has seemed impossible all season, and that’s to actually win the Stanley Cup.