By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Despite the lack of specifics regarding when the NHL season might resume or where, the Nashville Predators now at least know who they would face in the opening round of the playoffs. The NHL Players Association voted last Friday to approve the league proposal of a 24-team, conference-based playoff format. That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a resumption of play as the union and owners still must agree on health and safety proposals, but it does mean that if/when it happens, the Predators would be the sixth seed in the Western Conference and face the Arizona Coyotes the 11th seed in the opening round. Yet to be determined is the locations for the games, as well as the times and dates.
The top four teams in the Eastern Conference would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars would the top four in the Western Conference. Reuters said the league would use hub cities, but didn’t say which ones. The first-round series between the 16 teams left in each conference would be best of five. The remaining playoff series would be best of seven.
While the top four are getting byes into the second round, they will likely play some games against each other. That’s another angle of the plan that is still being working out. There will be some sort of round-robin tournament and the top teams could be reseeded prior to the start of the second round. There won’t be any fans allowed at any of these games. Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week there were eight or nine locations under consideration to be “hub” cities.
Nashville is on record as wanting to be one of those sites. This proposal is only for the postseason. Another thing yet to be decided is whether the league will try to finish the regular season, which was suspended March 12, or go straight to the playoffs.