2020 Playoff Format

We might be a long way from a return to hockey, but we at least know what it will look like once it gets going again!

Before I dive in to the good stuff, I just want to take a moment for a shameless plug and to mention that I just hit 1000 followers on Twitter! I’m just a hockey fan with an opinion and a computer that was just looking for an outlet to vent about our Oilers. I started the blog at the end of the 2017-18 season, and I had no idea that I would see a day where so many people would want to hear what I have to say, so thank you to all of my followers!

A big thank you goes out to the people that helped me get all of these followers as well: to Sean Patrick Ryan (@TheOilKnight) for a shout out in my early days, to BLH (@BeerLeagueHeroe) for allowing me to post some of my content on his site, and to Michael Hebert (@oilerslive) for having me as a guest on his OILERSLIVE Podcast.

Alright, back to the news from yesterday that the NHL regular season is now complete. That has three notable implications for the Oilers.

The first is that Leon Draisaitl has officially won the Art Ross Trophy! He led the league with 43 goals and 110 points in just 71 games played. Leon was a monster this season! He’s got my vote for the Hart Trophy as well. He was a runaway winner of the Art Ross on a playoff team. That’s a Hart Trophy recipe.

I believe that Leon has established himself as one of the top 5 players in the world right now. There’s Connor, Sid, Ovi, Mackinnon, and then Draisaitl. You could put Kucherov up there too, maybe even Pastrnak given the season he had. Wherever you want to rank Leon on that list, we are extremely lucky to get to watch two of the best players in the world do their things. I’m looking forward to many more years of watching Leon and Connor!

The second implication of the regular season being over now for the Oilers is that they will retain the 3rd round pick that was involved in the Real Deal. The condition was that the Oilers would get the pick if James Neal scored 21 or more goals and scored 10 or more goals than Milan Lucic. Neal finished with 19 goals, so the condition has not been met. The Oilers will go into the draft with picks in rounds 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7. It would’ve been a pretty lean year for picks in what is supposed to be a deep draft if that condition had been met. It’s definitely nice to be able to keep that 3rd rounder.

The third implication for the Oilers is that THEY MADE THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The new playoff format for the 2019-20 season will feature 24 teams. 16 teams will faceoff in a best of 5 play-in round, and the top 4 teams in each conference will be awaiting the winners. The Oilers will be in a play-in series against the Chicago Blackhawks with a chance to face the Dallas Stars on the line.

The situation is a little frustrating for the Oilers because they had the 4th most points in the Western Conference at the time of the pause, but the Stars were only 1 point back and they had played in 2 fewer games than the Oilers had. It was done by points percentage, which is the fairest way to account for unequal numbers of games played. Thems the breaks!

24 is a lot of playoff teams. Montreal was out of the race for all intents and purposes sitting 10 points back of the wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with 11 games to play, but they have been given a life boat in this format. The Coyotes were 4 points back of that final Western wild card spot with 12 games to play, but they had to leap over 3 other teams to climb into one of those spots. Chicago was on life support in the Western Conference sitting 6 points back of the final wild card spot with 12 games to play. It’s kind of ridiculous that teams like these will have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup.

There were 21 teams that were realistically in the playoff race. A 20-team format would’ve involved trying to eliminate 4 teams in a play-in scenario. That would’ve meant that there would’ve been 4 play-in series with 8 teams. The match-ups for the next round of the playoffs could’ve been determined by placing the four play-in series winners in the bottom four spots and seeding them based on regular season points percentage.

That would’ve meant that 12 teams would’ve earned a bye. The typical format has 4 divisions with 3 guaranteed playoff spots up for grabs. I’m not a math guy, but I’m pretty sure 4×3 = 12. The teams that were in the top 3 in each division at the pause could have avoided a play-in matchup in a 20-team playoff format (cough, cough, the Oilers, cough, cough). The teams in the mix for wild card spots could’ve fought it out in the play-in series.

I love the sounds of this 20-team format because it would’ve made sure that teams that didn’t deserve playoff spots didn’t get them, and because it would’ve allowed the division leaders to avoid the play-in series. It also would’ve made more sense from a safety perspective because there would’ve been fewer games, which would reduce the amount of time that players would be exposed to each other.

A 20-team format would’ve meant that one team would’ve been pissed off about not being included. That could’ve easily been fixed with a one game play-in match, which would’ve featured the Predators and the Wild.

However, the NHL decided that the 24-team format was best because none of the teams that were in the race are upset about not getting an opportunity to compete in the playoffs, and because the format allows for more games and more advertising revenue.

I’m not too upset about the format because ultimately, the cream will rise to the top. None of Montreal, Chicago, or Arizona will win the Stanley Cup this season. An upset in the play-in round is entirely possible, but I don’t believe that any of those three teams will go very far in this format. The 24-team format means that I get to watch more games, which I’m very happy about!

It will be an unusual playoffs, but this is an unusual time. I’m totally fine with a unique format like this for unprecedented time in professional sports. It will be really exciting because it is new and because we had our hockey watching season cut short!

We also learned that Edmonton is one of the ten cities being considered as possible hosts for these playoff games. The NHL wants to choose two cities to host these games in. The list includes:

Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St Paul

I think Edmonton has a good shot because of the pedway system that exists near Rogers Place. It will be easier to quarantine teams because of that. I’m sure there are a lot of other factors that I’m missing here, but it’s kind of exciting that Edmonton is being considered even though we won’t be able to go to any of the games.

The other detail that was announced yesterday was that teams that lose in the play-in round will be included in the draft lottery. It’s complicated because let’s say for example that the Oilers, who were sitting in 2nd in the Pacific Division at the pause, could lose in the play-in round and win the draft lottery. It would’ve been more fair for the draft lottery to have been altered for this unusual time, but given that the odds of one of the play-in losers winning the draft lottery are so low, I’m not going to spend time and energy being upset about it.

I’ll do more of a playoff preview once we get more details on when these playoffs will happen. In the mean time, stay safe everyone!

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