Rumors of a 24-Team Playoff Format

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s hockey news nonetheless and it gives me something to write about. For those of you who haven’t heard, there have been rumors about the NHL adopting a 24-team playoff format when the season does resume at some point. The New York Post seems to be the first news outlet to have broken this story earlier in the month, and it has recently gained traction. Most recently, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun has reported that the NHL and NHLPA are making progress towards agreeing on this potential playoff format.

Of course there’s still plenty of work to be done because there are so many logistical hurdles. The league has said training camp will be three weeks, but what about the issues relating to the virus that could arise just from that? How will some players feel about potentially putting themselves and their families at risk by returning to action? Will some players just completely refuse to play because of said risk? There are so many questions surrounding this that I’m sure are being discussed in every meeting. That being said, I’d rather save some of that discussion for the next edition of the podcast. For now, I want to look at what this playoff format could mean for teams in and the matchups.

According to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Tuesday article, the proposed format includes the top 12 teams in each conference based off winning percentage. Here’s what that would look like for the Eastern Conference. Thanks to Hockey Reference for the stats.

  1. Boston (.714)
  2. Tampa Bay (.657)
  3. Washington (.652)
  4. Philadelphia (.645)
  5. Pittsburgh (.623)
  6. Carolina (.596)
  7. New York Islanders (.588)
  8. Toronto (.579)
  9. Columbus (.579) * Toronto has 3 more wins
  10. Florida Panthers (.565)
  11. New York Rangers (.564)
  12. Montreal Canadiens (.500)

And for the Western Conference

  1. St. Louis (.662)
  2. Colorado (.657)
  3. Vegas (.606)
  4. Dallas (.594)
  5. Edmonton (.585)
  6. Vancouver (.565)
  7. Nashville (.565) * Vancouver has 1 more win
  8. Calgary (.564)
  9. Winnipeg (.563)
  10. Minnesota (.558)
  11. Arizona (.529)
  12. Chicago (.514)

Now as LeBrun and others have reported, it’s not just going to be a 12 in each conference playoff format where we see Boston go kick the crap out of Montreal for a few games. LeBrun has said it seems that we’ll see a play-in system to get the field down to 16 teams.


I’m not sure if this “play-in series” will, in fact, be individual series between the teams involved or whether it’ll be a series of one game knockouts among all teams involved in the play-in. Like I’ve said, there’s still a lot of moving parts here, but we’re gaining ground.

Speaking of the teams involved in the play-in, let’s take a look at what these matchups might look like. I’m assuming we’re taking the bottom six teams in each conference for the play-in to have an even number of teams and finish with two teams that will compete for either the 7th or 8th seed. In order to get to the final two, I imagine the team with the highest winning percentage after the first round would immediately be in and play for seeding. If we go off of the win percentage standings, here’s what the Eastern Matchups will look like.




To illustrate my point, if the Islanders, Leafs, and Jackets all win, the Leafs and Jackets would play to determine who faces the Islanders for seeding because the Islanders have the highest win percentage out of that group. Is it a little wonky? Yes, but I can’t come up with another method that makes sense. Anyway, in the West, we’ll have some unusual playoff matchups.




I don’t know about you guys, but I think this format would be absolutely electric. There have already been rumors about possibly making this format the new norm which I think could make the playoffs even more exciting. If this is the format and matchups that we get, here are my predictions.

In the East: NYI, TOR, and CBJ all win their respective matchups. Toronto then beats the Jackets and Islanders to take the 7th seed while the Islanders are relegated to the 8th seed and a first round matchup with Boston.

In the West: NSH, ARI, and WPG win their first round matchups. The Coyotes beat Winnipeg but fall to Nashville, leaving Arizona with the 8th seed and a first round series with the defending champs.

I’ve rambled on enough so I won’t go series by series at this point, but you can figure out from here what the 16-team field would look like after the play in. We have to get creative in order to save the season, and I think this would be a phenomenal way to do it. Let me know what you guys think on Twitter @Morning_Skate.

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