I can only imagine how people who felt it was wrong that more than half of the NHL got into the playoffs last year (16 of 31) feel this year with the expansion to 24 teams.
Now, admittedly for some of them it could be a fairly short stay in the playoffs, since the first round, which includes 16 teams, is a best-of-five series. That means that after a minimum of three months without playing a game, a team might play three games and then get to go home for a very short offseason.
I will say I feel the system the NHL came up with is as good as could be expected, short of calling the whole thing off. Just taking the top 16 teams as of March 12, when the season went on what turned out to be a permanent pause, would not be fair to teams which were getting hot at that point and would have a realistic chance at the playoffs if the season had played out to its conclusion.
So we have eight “play-in” series, which is the NHL trying to maintain the feeling of this still being a 16-team playoffs. They will be at two hub cities, one for each conference, and the current plan is that each of those cities will host the play-in games as well as the playoff games through to the conference finals.
Oh, by the way, while the play-in series are underway, the top four teams in each conference, who aren’t in the play-in, will play each other in a round robin to determine their seedings going into the playoffs.
The league is still hoping the conference finals and Stanley Cup finals can be played in the cities of the teams involved, but that won’t be known for some time.
As for the NHL draft, I’ve decided that since the last three times I sat down to write a column about how it will work, I’ve ended up with a headache and had to go and lie down for a while, I’m not going to try to explain it this time.
Suffice to say, you will need a copy of the standings and, if I remember correctly, an astronomical calendar to determine what phase the moon is in, since that will have a strong bearing on how the whole thing works.