This proposal includes the top four teams in each conference (based on percentage points) playing each other for seeding harvest, while the remaining 16 teams play best-of-five series in one play-in round. The setup for play-in will be: No. 5 seeds vs. No. 12 (with the winner advancing to play the fourth seed), No. 6 and No. 11 (winner plays third), No. vs. No. 10 (winner of second), No. 8 vs. No. 9 (wins first play). That would leave 16 teams to compete for the Stanley Cup, as it has in one regular season.
The Washington Capitals play for the implant in the proposed round-robin scenario. Other teams receiving byes in the East are Boston, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. West, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas will say goodbye. The teams that qualify for the “bracket”; play-in are Pittsburgh, Carolina the New York Islanders and Rangers, Toronto, Columbus, Florida and Montreal in the East and Edmonton, Nashville, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Arizona and Chicago in the West.
Capitals defender John Carlson, speaking at NBC on Thursday, said he was not a big fan of the expanded 24-team playoff format. He thought the number of teams was very high, but acknowledged that “due to logistics” the plan could be put to the test.
Center Lars Eller did not see a full return-to-play proposal Thursday but said there has been a “positive vibe” around the playback talks over the past few weeks.
“I would say that when it comes to the format I think it’s almost impossible to make everyone happy … the situation is what it is,” Eller said. “It’s far from perfect. We’re going to manage the best we can and I think we’ll come together and find a solution for it. It won’t be easy.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who appeared Monday in a news conference for Sunday in the City, a sports business conference, said the league explored eight to nine different potential areas. which can accommodate “a dozen or more teams in one location.” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said this week that Washington is not one of those places. Bettman noted that there are many games to be played each day on both sites, and there are no fans.
Other challenges included gathering players to leave the country. Bettman said 17 percent of league players are currently outside of North America. More than half of the Capitals have left the Washington area since the season was suspended in mid-March.
Players are also hesitant about leaving their families for a long time if the season continues. They will also be concerned about the safety of their families when playing, then allowing contact with loved ones in the middle of the pandemic.
“I think for me personally, I’m not worried about myself; I’m worried about the next step and the ones who might give it a go,” Carlson said. “I’m a healthy person. I think I’ll be okay with it. I have a family; I have kids. What are the repercussions of that?”
Eller and his wife are expecting a boy in August and he has a 7-year-old daughter. Eller considered the risk he would weigh if he wanted to socialize with his newborn. At the same time, he didn’t want to be separated from his family for a long time.
Safety “needs to be great and I also don’t want it to be a situation where I don’t see my family for weeks at a time and get locked in a hotel room,” Eller said. “It’s like I don’t see that … I don’t want to say that will happen, but if that’s the case, I don’t think … for a while, it’s not worth doing it.”
With as many barriers and discussions as possible, Eller said players generally like to play. The issue, he asked, was at what cost?
“At some point will it be a hindrance to what is worth it? Is it worth it, I mean,” said Eller. “I don’t know where the barrier is, but I think we will go with it.”
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