A Look at a Return to Play Scenario That Is Circulating Among NHL Players, Per Report

By Chris Pennington on May 18, 2020 at 8:05 am
Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) keeps the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) during the first period at TD Garden.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Get ready for potentially the most abnormal postseason format in NHL history.

On Saturday afternoon, French Canadian outlet TVA Sports reported on an NHL return-to-play scenario that they say is circulating among the league's players. According to Renaud Lavoie, the Hockey Reporter for TVA, this is just one scenario out of the several that are being proposed about the season's resumption.

Very interesting, nonetheless. Here are the main details from the article, originally written in French:


  • Here are what the divisions may look like where the top-24 teams in the overall standings play.
    • Atlantic: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers (bumped over from the Metropolitan Division for format reasoning)
    • Metropolitan: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets
    • Central: St-Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks
    • Pacific: Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild


  • "The formula under study is as follows: each team would play five games in nine days in a group phase concept ("round-robin"). We would then take a percentage of the points collected in the group phase, combined with the percentage of points for the season, and the first two teams of each division would then have a pass. The other four teams in each division (3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5) would then play a series two of three. Then we would end up with our normal series formula, that is, four of seven."


  • "The training camps will be three weeks long, ideally in the training sites of each formation. We say "ideally", because it is possible that the health authorities of a city forbid it. This team’s training camp will be held elsewhere at that time."


  • "Four amphitheaters will host the NHL teams. A team cannot play in its own amphitheater for reasons of equity. So if Vancouver is one of the cities, the Canucks will not be able to play games there.- A city will be chosen to host the association finals as well as the Stanley Cup final."


  • "Each team will have a formation of 30 players."


  • "The whole issue of testing will also need to be resolved to ensure that the players and staff in each formation are safe."

What does this say for the Blue Jackets? Let's assume the five games in nine days plan doesn't change the divisional standing that much. Then, according to the format above, the most likely scenario is that the Capitals and Flyers would retain the top-two seeds in the division, and the Blue Jackets would be the last spot in the division. Columbus would then go into a series (most likely) with the Penguins unless Pittsburgh were able to jump the Flyers or Capitals.

Obviously, any of those matchups could be tough tasks for Columbus, but it's better than having to faceoff with just the highest overall seed in either division in the Eastern Conference (in this case, the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning), right?

What are your thoughts on this potential return-to-play format? How would you structure a return?

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