24 NHL teams playing for the Stanley Cup most likely scenario

The more and more you read what is being bandied about from the NHL you start to realize that an expanded playoff is the most likely return scenario. Yes, the top 4 teams from each conference would in essence receive a 1st round bye in a 5 round tournament. Or the bottom 4 teams could play a “wild card” playoff scenario before the traditional 16 team tournament starts.

Neutral Sites?

Where the games would be played is still undetermined. The NHL has indeed started talks with neutral sites in North Dakota and New Hampshire but both would be a challenge to host such a tournament. Lodging accommodations alone would be hell to figure out. Plus reports are coming out that the NHL and NHLPA have not discussed the topic.

“Other than the general understanding that they’re looking at all possibilities, which includes neutral sites – neutral being defined as a place that isn’t a home base for an NHL team,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski of ESPN. “We haven’t had those discussions yet.”

The Score
Daly and Bettman (NHL/Getty Images)

Larry Brooks in his most recent Slap Shots column dove in further.

Slap Shots has learned that the league is now focused on playing in an NHL city (perhaps more than one) that has been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, whose curve tracks positively, and is located within a state whose social distancing regulations would be relaxed by the time the first puck is ready to be dropped. The effort faces the same massive obstacles that have been catalogued repeatedly over the past few weeks that apply to every sport, not just hockey. The athletes and team support staffs, etc., would essentially have to be segregated from society for the duration of their respective seasons while tested regularly for COVID-19. Of course, the games would be played without fans.


League Determined

Recently, I spoke with my league sources who in not so many words told me the league is determined to complete this season and award the Stanley Cup. Now the question remains, will the games start in July as many speculate or earlier? If they can resume in June there is talk of completing the entire regular season. That is the most unlikely scenario but is still being considered. Regardless, it looks like hockey will indeed resume this summer.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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