NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NHL, like the NBA and MLB, is working through a variety of return-to-play scenarios as the United States continues to feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report from the New York Post, the new plan for the league would be to hold a 24-team tournament.
The report, from the New York Post’s Larry Brooks indicates that the league has shifted focus to this plan for three main reasons — condensing duration of play to avoid a second wave of the virus, avoiding calling back teams that have no realistic shot at the playoffs, and avoiding the need to quarantine teams in a hub city for three or four months.
A 24-team tournament could be either good or bad news for the New York Rangers. If the league decides to go with the Top 12 teams from each conference, then the Rangers, two points out of a playoff spot when the league “paused,” would make the postseason for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
On the other hand, Brooks noted that the league could decide to go with a divisional format whereby the top six teams from each division make postseason play. That version of the tournament would leave the Rangers out in the cold as they sit seventh out of eight teams in the difficult Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders are safe either way. Barry Trotz’s team finished the paused regular season one point ahead of the Rangers despite the Rangers having played two more games. In both scenarios the Isles would make the tournament as they are in the top 12 in the East and are right in front of the Rangers in the Metro.
There are still plenty of obstacles to the 24-team tournament plan. Testing, and getting enough kits to test all team personnel and finding enough labs to get the results of those tests is the biggest. The league currently has a stay-at-home advisory for all players and they are expected to update information on that advisory at some point in the next week, according to Brooks.