Every sports league on “pause” is looking for ways to get started and cut their losses. Hockey has some fascinating ideas, which are whetting appetites.
The PGA Tour, NASCAR, and UFC all have their plans in place to get their sports going again. The NFL plans to start on schedule and Major League Baseball has assembled various scenarios to commence around July 1st.
The NHL is trying to put together plans and has a different mindset than others, with a real desire to finish regular season before heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To date, teams have played 68 to 71 regular-season contests and commissioner Gary Bettman would like to reach 82 like a normal season. However, that might not be possible given time constraints heading into the next season, even with a delay, thus, 76 or 78 games if being floated or going directly to playoffs.
Presently, any return includes having each division finishing the regular season in one location, leading to four designated spots. As many as a dozen cities are reported to have an interest. The logistics go far behind just a stadium to play in and among the more important aspects are hotel accommodations for seven or eight teams and practice facilities. The leading contenders are Edmonton (Pacific), St. Paul (Central), Raleigh (Metropolitan), and Tampa (Atlantic).
If the NHL could complete 76 to 82 games, they could go with traditional 16-team setup and probably shorten the first two series to three or five games, before returning to a best-of-seven.
If not, then the NHL has to get creative. Hockey bettors, like those in the other sports, just want to make NHL picks and have action and here is a proposal that has fans talking.
Stanley Cup Playoffs – 24-Team Postseason Tournament
Let’s be honest, aside from the NCAA Basketball Tournament, from Game 1 until the conclusion, the Stanley Cup chase is the best postseason to watch and for the most part, it’s not even close. People that don’t watch one regular-season hockey contest, regularly tune in to watch the playoffs because of the intensity, excitement, and unpredictability.
One can almost forget about the NHL series odds because they are nearly as difficult as picking individual games the first two rounds.
If by chance Bettman decides to go right to the playoffs, one would assume, win percentage, not point standings, would determine what six teams from each division advance.
Here is one proposed setup from the Atlantic Division.
- Boston Bruins (.714 points percentage)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (.657)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (.579)
- Florida Panthers (.565)
- Montreal Canadiens (.500)
- Buffalo Sabres (.493)
- Eliminated: Ottawa Senators (.437), Detroit Red Wings (.275)
In this case and all others, Boston and Tampa Bay would play a best-of-three to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 seed in this division. Additionally, No. 3 would face No. 6 (Toronto vs Buffalo) and No. 4 vs No. 5 (Florida vs. Montreal) in the same best-of-three format.
This would get us to 16 teams, as per usual, where most likely seeding by win percentage based on division and conference would take over.
The extra round would be high pressure for seeds 3 through 6, adding another elimination round. Plus, if by chance it would be deemed safe for fans to be in the stands, even a thousand or two, that could mean home-ice advantage in the later rounds which is added incentive for the top two clubs in each division.
What Does This Mean to Hockey Bettors?
First and foremost, betting action. From here, having at least five regular-season games would be a huge plus for bettors and handicappers, because you start to have a track record to refer to. Without those and having mini-series in a 24-team playoff, in those initial skirmishes, even the best sportsbooks and bettors are skydiving without a parachute, backed only with prior knowledge from months ago.
If talent is your only barometer to start, BetOnline has Boston (+375), Tampa Bay (+450), and Philadelphia (+500) as the top choices in the Eastern Conference. Out West, it is Colorado (+375), Vegas (+375), and the defending champs St. Louis (+450).
But as we know, a hot goalie or one line can alter a series and unlike the NBA, the best team at the time is who wins the title, not the finest collection of talent.
The NHL is more prone to upsets anyway and that could be even more so this time around. If you would like to talk more about ice hockey, we invite you to check SBR’s NHL Betting Forum.