16 teams? 20 teams? 24 teams? They’ve all been floated as the NHL tries to figure out how they’ll return to action when the pandemic finally subsides.
For the Golden Knights, because they sat atop the Pacific Division when the league was paused, the smaller the tournament, the better. But, there’s one major hurdle even teams atop their divisions believe needs to be cleared.
Whatever the answer is, whoever’s team goes on that Cup, there has to be enough integrity to the process and the decision on how we’re going to do it so that team isn’t going to have an asterisk beside it in the history books. –Pete DeBoer on ESPN on Ice
In other words, whatever the format ends up being, there has be enough teams in the playoffs to make it feel like the winner truly is the best team in the league. No matter how tight the schedule gets, there won’t be any consideration of a four-team, or even eight-team, tournament when hockey starts back up.
Which leads us to the two most likely scenarios. The first is to stick with the normal 16-team playoff format the league has used for years. Everything remains the same and if you weren’t in the playoffs when the league halted, tough break. Everyone in the playoff picture, like Vegas, believe this is the best plan, but the five or six teams on the outside have different thoughts.
That’s what birthed the second idea, which is an extended playoff with 20 or 24 teams. For an example of what that could look like, check out our friend Drew Goldfarb’s proposal.
This scenario, as well as pretty much any other one with greater than 16 teams, gives the Golden Knights a bye in the first round. That’s something that sounds great, but in the eyes of Pete DeBoer isn’t.
I don’t want to be the team with the bye, sitting there after being off for a month or two months or three months. Having teams play two-out-of-threes and play-in games while you’re sitting there. There’s a huge advantage to having actually played games. I know the bye sounds like an advantage. And it is an advantage if you’ve been playing an entire 82-game season and you roll into that and you have 10 days to prepare for the next round. But when you’ve been sitting around for months, it’s a disadvantage. From a fairness point of view, that would be a concern for me. –DeBoer on ESPN on Ice
In a separate interview, DeBoer went out of his way to make the same point.
I’m more in favor of the traditional format. Although I understand that we’re not a bubble team and I’m sure for my good friend Paul Maurice (in Winnipeg) it’s different when you’re either just in or just out depending on whether they (use) points percentage or not. But yeah I prefer the traditional route. Not in a favor of a bye in that situation. –DeBoer to The Athletic
Now that we know where DeBoer stands, let’s hope the league returns in time for this opinion to matter.