On Tuesday afternoon, the National Hockey League announced the Return to Play plan. While not everything has been nailed down in terms of the details, they provided a lot of information about what’s going to happen… probably.
The @NHL has released a Return to Play Plan for the 2019-20 season.
24 teams to compete for #StanleyCup
2 hub cities will host games
Protocol for return to training
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 26, 2020
So here’s the deal: the 2019-20 regular season is done. (Nothing has been announced in terms of determinations in regards to the Milan Lucic conditional pick, but just assume the Flames aren’t going to get it until told otherwise.)
The top 12 teams in each conference in points percentage will advance to the playoffs, each assigned a hub city. The remaining teams are done for the season. Participating playoff teams will be limited to 50 personnel apiece in each hub city.
Two hub cities will be selected from the following:
– Chicago, IL
– Columbus, OH
– Dallas, TX
– Edmonton, AB
– Las Vegas, NV
– Los Angeles, CA
– Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
– Pittsburgh, PA
– Toronto, ON
– Vancouver, BC
— Kristen Anderson (@KdotAnderson) May 26, 2020
Here’s how things are looking:
- Phase 2, the return to skating in small groups, is expected to begin in early June.
- Phase 3, training camps, won’t begin before July 1 and are expected to begin sometime in the first half of July.
- Phase 4, teams going to their hub cities for the playoffs, are TBD. (Chatter among media types suggests that training camps will be three weeks long, which places this as late as early August.)
The playoffs will have a new look:
- The top four teams in each conference will play each other in a round robin for seeding, with tiebreakers being the regular season records. (Regular season overtime will decide games, if needed, but all other series listed here will use playoff overtime rules.)
- The fifth through 12th teams in each conference will play in a best-of-five qualifying round. It has yet to be decided if they’ll use a firm bracket or re-seed after each playoff round.
- From there, things will progress to conference quarterfinals and semi-final rounds, which may be best-of-five or best-of-seven. (They haven’t decided yet.)
- The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven.
Gary Bettman noted the expectation is the qualifying and first two rounds can be completed in just over a month. So it’s sounding like their plan is getting the Stanley Cup handed out before the end of September. Probably.
The draft lottery
The draft lottery will be June 26. The seven non-playoff teams will get the first seven spots, followed by the eight losers of the qualifying series. Draws will be held for the first three picks. If one of the non-playoff teams wins a pick, they get the pick. If one of the qualifying round loses wins a pick, they’ll do a second drawing to determine which of the losers gets that pick.
The draft will be conducted after the playoffs, possibly in October. (They haven’t nailed down a date yet.)
The Calgary Flames have qualified for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. They’ll face Winnipeg in the qualifying round, probably starting sometime in August in a city yet to be determined.