Some NHL GMs "Lukewarm" On 24-Team Return-To-Play Format
NHL GMs are "still somewhat in the dark in terms of what’s coming down the pipe" regarding the league's proposal for a 24-team, conference-based playoff format which would likely use only two hub cities, and many on the idea feel "pretty lukewarm about it, at best," according to Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca. The most prominent complaint is that the 24-team playoff format "distances itself too much from the NHL regular season." There also are some GMs who "feel that this is really a made-for-TV event, which it is, because there’s no fans in the stands, but they’re chuckling a little bit" that the Blackhawks and Rangers are a "big part of this for obvious TV reasons." TSN's Darren Dreger noted there is "no rush in terms of making a decision or confirming hub cities." It is "believed that the NHL is leaning towards two hub cities." There are "still a good amount of cities in the mix" (TSN.ca, 5/21).
MUCH TO BE DONE: The AP's Whyno & Wawrow note even if the NHLPA exec board "votes to approve the format, it doesn’t yet seal the deal for the NHL season resuming." The league and players union "still need to negotiate other details, including health and safety protocols." But the format is a "substantial piece of the return to play puzzle." The "who of returning would be set." The "where, when and how must still be determined" (AP, 5/22).
BREAKING IT DOWN: In Toronto, Michael Traikos takes a look at the "good, bad and ugly" of the NHL's 24-team proposal. The good includes "more postseason games" as structuring a postseason around the top 24 teams would "give fans more hockey than usual." Traikos: "There won’t be a meaningless game until the start of next season." The bad includes "more opportunity to get hurt" as playoffs are a "time when the physicality is ramped up." Traikos: "The league might want to bring along an MRI machine to whatever hotel they’re staying at." The ugly is the perception that the "Covid Cup" in "whatever format the NHL decides ... will tarnish the Stanley Cup" (TORONTO SUN, 5/22).
PIECE OF THE PIE: NHL Network's Mike Johnson noted the 24-team format would include big markets like N.Y. and Chicago, but he thinks the league is just "trying to acknowledge the fact that the entire regular season wasn’t finished.” There is "a lot to like here, a lot of details to work out but as a foundational point it’s a good starting spot” (“NHL Tonight,” NHL Network, 5/21).