Gary Bettman announced Tuesday the NHL’s plan of action as it pertains to the resumption of the 2019-2020 season. One of the most polarizing news conferences in NHL history, Bettman provided a glimpse of clarity into how the league plans on crowning a champion, but by no means confirmed whether or not the season would be able to resume as the health and safety of all personnel remains of utmost importance.

Tuesday afternoon, Bettman declared that this year’s regular season will be over — effective immediately. However, an avant-garde playoff format will be adopted to offset potential unfairness and integrity concerns associated with the abrupt ending.

The plan is to have a 24-team playoff format that encapsulates the 12 best teams from each conference, as each conference playoffs will take place in a hub city that the NHL must decide on in the coming weeks. As reported, the hub cities currently under consideration are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver.

There are still many logistical concerns at this time, as various protocols have to be determined in order to have a thorough and comprehensive operation in place. The league has remained hopeful that these issues will work themselves out in due time, and that having a concrete template for the completion of the season will help jumpstart the process.

Potential Timeline & What to Watch For

The NHL has made it crystal clear on their intentions to crown a Stanley Cup Champion this season, and has created a comprehensive phasic plan of action to do as promised. Phase 2 is rather simple: get teams back in their facilities for various small group training sessions both on and off the ice — beginning no later than the 2nd week of June.

Phase 3 will be for teams to have formal, full-roster training camps to prepare themselves for the upcoming playoffs. This will take place no earlier than July 1st and will likely determine whether or not we’ll see playoff hockey this summer. These dates are lofty goals, but are still crucial in determining whether or not it’s feasible to complete this year’s season without stepping on the toes of next year’s season.

Now to the fun part, this 24-team playoff format will feature the top 4 seeds in each conference playing a round-robin tournament to determine their own seeding atop the conference. This will feature the Blues (reigning champs), Golden Knights, Avalanche, and Stars out West, and the Bruins, Lightning, Flyers, and Capitals out East.

Then, the remaining 8 teams in each conference will play a best of 5 series that will act as a ‘play-in’ round of sorts, as the 5,6,7 and 8 seed will play the 12,11,10 and 9 seed, accordingly. This will feature a variety of interesting matchups in both conferences, and will provide added excitement to fan bases and franchises that were on the outside looking in not too long ago. The matchups for this round can be viewed below in addition to each teams initial odds to hoist Lord Stanley:

1. St Louis Blues (+1000)
2. Vegas Golden Knights (+600)
3. Colorado Avalanche (+800)
4. Dallas Stars (+1400)

5. Edmonton Oilers (+4000) vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks (+10000)
6. Nashville Predators (+4000) vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes (+5000)
7. Vancouver Canucks (+5000) vs. 10. Minnesota Wild (+8000)
8. Calgary Flames (+5000) vs. 9. Winnipeg Jets (+5000)

1. Boston Bruins (+600)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (+600)
3. Washington Capitals (+1000)
4. Philadelphia Flyers (+1200)

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (+1600) vs. 12. Montreal Canadiens (+10000)
6. Carolina Hurricanes (+5000) vs. 11. New York Rangers (+8000)
7. New York Islanders (+8000) vs. 10. Florida Panthers (+8000)
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (+3000) vs. 9. Columbus Blue Jackets (+8000)

All in all, Bettman has handled this pandemic with tremendous determination, timeliness, and awareness — saying the right things, coordinating with the right people, and making decisions using the proper framework. He has helped fortify the integrity and image of the NHL without losing sight of the bigger picture, and has instilled unity and cohesion throughout league personnel during these trying times.

A 24-team playoff is a fantastic idea for a sport that is incredibly volatile and underdog-driven, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs have become the most polarizing and unpredictable sporting event in recent memory. Adding more teams will only amplify the buzz and excitement surrounding hockey, and will make for a fascinating postseason unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Cheers to an exciting summer and be sure to check out our guide on puckline betting and how to formulate your winning strategy.

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