Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press

Bettman announces NHL return, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions

While it is still some time away and in this day and age it seems things can change overnight, the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today announced a possible return to play to complete the 2019-2020 season, but it came with a lot of unanswered questions. This comes on the back of the NHLPA voting 29-2 in favor of returning just last week.

While there are still boundaries to overcome a playoff format consisting of 24 teams has been decided on and laid out, with the location of the hub cities these games will be played in still to be determined. That could have a lot to do with the Canadian government’s insistence that anybody entering the country self-quarantine for 14 days. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver were three of the ten cities mentioned by Bettman as possible playoff sites, however, if those restrictions are not lifted it’s hard to imagine any of those been chosen.

The other seven possible locations were Los Angeles, Vegas, Minnesota, Columbus, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

Another stumbling block yet to be resolved is what happens after the play-in’s. Teams have voted for a re-seeding so the highest seeded team would play the lowest, while the NHL would prefer to have set brackets starting with the play-in’s.

As far as the playoff brackets, it was determined that the top four teams from each conference based on points percentage would be entered into a round-robin style tournament to determine their seeds for the remainder of the playoffs. The remaining eight teams from each conference will play a best of five series against a conference rival based on standings.

Mr. Bettman did make clear that while this is a huge step forward, no dates or locations have been selected yet and both will be “determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of our players.”

The current round one play-in’s as they are being called are as follows:

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers

New York Islanders v Florida Panthers

Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference

Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks

Nashville Predators v Arizona Coyotes

Vancouver Canucks v Minnesota Wild

Calgary Flames v Winnipeg Jets

24-Team Playoff Format

As for the round-robin, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals will be playing each other in the East. While in the West the St Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and the Dallas Stars will battle for the number one seed.