Having 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs seems to be the likely route for the NHL, which could see the Montreal Canadiens in a tough battle for the trophy.
On Sunday, we learned of a possible circus-like alteration to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL may hope to have enough time to finish out a portion of the 2019-20 regular season, but it seems as if a hockey return would mean the end of the regular season. If the league decides to go right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the idea of a 24-team tournament is up in the air, which would have the Montreal Canadiens make it as the final seed.
It’ll be pretty chaotic with an extra eight teams involved. As much as it is about being fair to those teams who were on the cusp of making it, there are also financial benefits of increasing the pool of teams that make the playoffs.
Before the league went on pause, the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Florida Panthers were battling for spots in the East while the Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes were doing the same in the West. The final seeds would’ve definitely gone down to the final week of the regular season, especially in the Western Conference.
Would it be fair to start the playoffs and say those 16 teams are deserving of those spots? Yes and no. Some of the teams have earned their way there, such as the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. On the other hand, some teams decided to pick up steam down the stretch like the Rangers and the Wild.
Then there is the reality of the decision. The NHL has lost a lot of money by shutting down amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The projected salary cap ceiling for next year is definitely out the window, and the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a way to add some revenue for the remainder of the season.
The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, especially in the playoffs, generate revenue for the NHL. That’s it, plain and simple. The league benefits from having them there, so it would make sense for the suits to want to move the goalposts a bit so they can be included. At the same time, you’re not going to see too many owners complain that the team they thought would miss will actually have an opportunity to play.
And now, thanks to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, we have an idea of what a 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs will look like.