A day after the NHL released protocols for what they consider “phase two” of their return back to the ice, the NHL, through a video announcement by league commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled plans for the 24 team playoff and the draft.
If you want the TL;DR version right up front, the biggest takeaway is that the Winnipeg Jets are in as part of the top 12 teams in the Western Conference and will be part of a best of five play-in series against the Calgary Flames in an undetermined ‘hub city’ when the season does resume.
It’s important to note that while Bettman revealed the long rumored plans for an expanded playoff and Draft lottery, no dates were specifically given. It was made clear that the NHL will be consulting with medical experts and regional health authorities on a constant basis and will carry on with these plans only when it’s been determined that it is safe to do so. The NHL is hoping to start with “phase two” of their plans – having the players resume on-ice training – in early June with Bettman suggesting that it could begin as early as next week.
NHL GMs' call went 1 hour 10 minutes. Sources say league unveiled 24-team format but couldn't give specific dates, which GMs had hoped for. Phase 3 (training camps) won't open before July, but no specific date (anywhere from July 1-15 start?) Phase 2 anywhere from June 1-8 start?
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 26, 2020
The playoff details revealed today…
Play will resume in two different hub cities. There is a long list of cities still under consideration and the NHL has stated that they will announce two cities that will host 12 teams each, one city playing host to the Eastern Conference, and the other hosting the West.
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) May 26, 2020
Each team will be limited to total of 50 personnel (players and staff) to bring to their designated hub city. Testing and monitoring of players and staff will be routine.
The top four teams in each conference – based on points percentage through games played on March 11 when the league was paused – will be automatically placed into the final 16, but will play in a three game round-robin to determine seeding. In the west, the top four are as follows:
1. St Louis Blues
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Vegas Golden Knights
4. Dallas Stars
The next eight teams will be entered in a best of five qualifying round. For the Jets, that means a best-of-five against the Calgary Flames.
#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks
#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes
#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild
#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets
The winners of these series will then move on to the first round of the playoffs to face one of the top four teams.
It has yet to be determined wither or not the league will be going with a set bracket style playoff (The winner of Flames/Jets could possibly see the top seed in the playoffs) or if the playoffs will be determined by seed. (If the Jets were to win, along with one of the Blackhawks, Coyotes, and / or Wild, one of those three lower seeded teams would face the top seed in the west and not the Jets)
As for the draft…
There is still a chance that the Jets, if they don’t beat the Flames and make it into the NHL playoffs proper, could be involved in the Draft Lottery… But it’s pretty darn complicated.
Phase 1 of the Draft Lottery (yes, even the draft lottery process has different phases) will be conducted on Friday, June 26. This will involve three draws as we’ve seen before in previous years: First Draw (first overall pick), Second Draw (second overall pick) and Third Draw (third overall pick). The clubs that will be entered in this lottery will be the seven teams that do not return to play, ranked in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause, and eight “place-holders” to represent the to-be-determined Qualifying Round teams that will not advance, thus maintaining previously-established odds.
If any of the draws are won by a place-holder club (one of the #8-15 group that will be part of the knocked out teams from the qualifier), the right to the first overall pick will be determined in Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery which will basically amount to a re-draw, only with the knocked out teams now involved.
We’ll file all that draft info under “we’ll understand it better once we see it”
All the details for the expanded playoff and draft info can be found on the NHL’s website.