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24-team playoff format? Bring it on, NHL

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Around a month ago, I told you right here on this page that NHL hockey returning simply looked like a long shot. From figuring out how to properly open the league back up to finding the right safety measures, it didn’t look possible. And it was going to come back in July, which didn’t leave much time for an offseason. I didn’t see it happening.

Fast forward a few weeks and we are living in a different world now. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman actually has his head on straight is helping guide players and teams back to the land of civilization, or what we can refer to as early March, 2020. Unlike the greedy arena of Major League Baseball-which could damage 2020’s return as well as future CBA talks-the NHL is making strides in a potential return.

One of those strides includes a 24-team playoff format. Think of it as a March Madness-type tournament instead of the usual NHL Playoff format. More teams, quicker eliminations, and more exciting hockey action. You get some of the shittier teams involved, but it also gives you more hockey in a shorter period of time.

How exactly does it work? The top four teams in each conference would play each other for seeding while the other 16 teams battle each other in a best of five series. Think of the latter part as a play-in sort of matchup. You’d have a #5 seed go up against a #12 seed, and the winner would play the #4 seed. By the end of this preliminary action, you’d have the usual 16 game format. Think of it as giving more lower-end or on-the-bubble teams a fair chance at breaking into the playoffs due to the lost games in the regular season.

The Blues would be one of those four teams looking for seeding, like the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche. Some players don’t care for it much but understand that it will be a part of getting hockey back this summer. If you don’t do this, go ahead and forget the safety protocol measures.

Speaking of those COVID-19 measures, they still represent the hurdles in the league returning to action. The owners started voting on the 24-team playoff format last night, according to The Washington Post. Part of that proposed format is finding 8-9 different stadiums or arenas for those games to be played. St. Louis could be among the places considered. The league loves St. Louis right now, following the Winter Classic a few years back, the Stanley Cup win last year, and the All Star Game this past February. There would be multiple games played there in a day but without fans.

You’d get a wild 24-team playoff tournament at home, which Matt Larkin with The Hockey News noted will still find certain fans bitching and moaning about it.

I’m with Matt here. Look, if you want hockey back, this is the one way road to that destination. Every other route is closed for the summer. Get with it or get used to no hockey until October. No playoffs. No games. And if COVID-19 makes its projected return in the fall, forget October too. For a guy who thought it was a far-fetched idea a month ago, I will admit to being genuinely interested in this one time format. Yes, this would only happen this year. Think of it as a special event.

Now isn’t the time to get picky. Don’t be the guy at the buffet who complains about the missing prime rib when there are 64 other food options right next to you. Take what you can get and smile afterwards.

I miss hockey. You miss hockey. We all miss hockey. Let’s find a way back to it, a way that seemed to be hopeless just a couple of weeks ago.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below and please, if you are going to call me stupid, at least label it, “Captain Stupid.”

So long for just a while.