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The NHL is looking at expanding the number of playoff teams if play resumes

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They’re trying to be as fair as possible to the bubble teams.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The never ending saga of how the NHL resumes play is, well, continuing. No decision has been able to be made regarding when the 2020 NHL Draft will be held, because owners and General Managers want it to be after the season and after the playoffs play out. The season doesn’t look any closer to starting. Even brief camps are a question mark - the May 15th date for workouts probably won’t happen, and the end of May/beginning of June camps aren’t hugely likely either.

Some assume that the NHL will be looking toward the NBA’s plan, especially since they share many cities and facilities, but right now the NBA is slowly re-opening training facilities. Several facilities will be open next week for individual work-outs: the Portland Trail Blazers, the Denver Nuggets, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors, the Sacramento Kings, and the Miami Heat. Other teams are waiting to make decisions.

Obviously, not every team re-opening facilities for practice, and those who are opening limiting practice significantly, does not mean that the season is starting. The NHL, if they’re following the NBA, will have the same logistical issues, and team practice would be a ways away.

If the season resumes, there may not be enough time to conclude properly before beginning the playoffs, which means that there are going to be teams who are on the cusp of the post-season that would miss out on the chance to earn points. Would playing mean that these teams would be a sure lock to get in? No, but owners and front offices won’t like the fact that they would miss the opportunity to at least try to get the post-season games and the TV revenue that go along with that.

To presumably sweeten the no conclusion of the season deal that could be a possibility, the NHL has suggested expanding the playoff team pool to include those just outside of the bubble. Instead of the top 16 teams, the NHL could suggest the top 20 teams - or even the top 24 teams - get in.

The people who think it’s a crock that half of the league participates in the post-season won’t be happy about this move.

This would mean that the Montreal Canadiens - who are ten points out of a wild card slot in the East - would be some sort of a playoff team. It would also mean that the Chicago Blackhawks, who are a more manageable six points out of a playoff spot, would be a playoff team.

The terms of this haven’t been agreed upon. Per TheScore:

“On Wednesday, in the Return To Play committee call, I’m told that 16, 20, and 24 (teams) were again talked about as options,” TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said on Thursday’s edition of “Insider Trading.”

“Of those three, from talking to people around the league both on the teams’ side and on the players’ side, 24 teams seems to be gathering a bit of traction.”

...

“You could easily adopt a play-in format that trims 24 down to the traditional 16 playoff teams,” TSN’s Darren Dreger added. “And by doing that, you don’t have regular-season games, you have three-to-six play-in games, and that means you can get through the process more quickly.”

This means that there’s the possibility of a team that had no playoff hopes, like the Habs, knocking off a contender like the Bruins. That has the potential for a lot of fun but also for a lot of very angry fans and players. The argument of the “purity of the playoffs” is going to get bandied about if this is how the league decides to continue.

The longer this drags on, the less likely a regular season resumption seems. Be prepared to hate the Blackhawks for at least a game.