As the NHL continues to figure out the best and safest way possible to resume the 2019-20 season, the idea of a 24-team playoff format has been discussed.
If Nashville Predators star forward Matt Duchene had his way, an expanded post-season wouldn’t be the top choice and instead he’d want the NHL to stick to a more traditional playoff format – even if it means “somebody’s gonna get screwed” by not having a fair shot at qualifying.
Duchene was a guest on Hockey Central Tuesday and he shared his thoughts on what he’d like to see.
“First of all, it needs to be safe,” Duchene said. “For the players, the coaches, the training staff. Everything. It needs to be safe. We can’t have any risk of anybody getting this thing and I think that’s going to be our ultimate biggest hurdle. … We can’t put sports and the business of sports, the revenue and all that, above that.”
Elliote Freidman wrote in his 31 Thoughts column last week that there has been some pushback regarding a 24-team format.
“I think the integrity of our game has to be maintained,” Duchene said. “I think with what the Stanley Cup means, with the guys’ names on the Cup, what they went through, 82 games and then 20-plus games to win the Stanley Cup. That sacrifice, going into another team’s barn and stealing a game in front of their fans in a hostile environment, pressure at home, all those things. That has to be maintained as best as possible.
“I doubt we’re going to be able to do that 100 per cent if we are able to come back but I would like to see as traditional a format as possible.”
If the league were to forgo resuming regular-season games, the 24-team format would eliminate any controversies around how to determine which 16 teams would qualify in a traditional playoff.
“There’s no fair way to say who should be in and who should be out because of not playing the full season, not playing the full 82, but for lack of a better word somebody’s gonna get screwed,” Duchene said. “I believe let’s keep it as traditional as possible. I’d love to see us jump to a 16-team playoff. Normal (best-of-seven) playoff, maybe play a little more frequently because guys are gonna be fresh and you can play a game at 3 o’clock on Friday and at 7 on Saturday and there’s no travel.”
Duchene’s Predators sat in the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference prior to the NHL’s indefinite hiatus, so his team would qualify regardless of which format the league lands on.
“I just think you gotta keep as much integrity as possible,” Duchene added. “You don’t want to have a COVID Cup and I’m worried that if we force this thing and try and it’s a little gimmicky and it’s not quite right, whoever wins the Cup is gonna have people try to take it away from them for their whole lives and guys don’t deserve that. I feel very passionately about this part of things.
“I think it’s sacrilegious if we don’t appreciate what (past champions) did and make it as big of a challenge and with as much integrity as possible. … I know guys are going to want this to mean something if we do come back.”