(KMOV.com) — If the Blues get the chance to defend their Stanley Cup title this season, it could end up coming under some pretty unique circumstances.
When the NHL—along with every other sports league in North America—put its season on pause back in March due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the continent, nobody knew how long the hiatus could potentially last. At the time, St. Louis was sitting pretty atop the Central division standings, with their 94 points representing the most of any Western Conference club.
Needless to say, the Blues were in a solid position to gun for a repeat.
According to a report from Sportsnet in Canada, the NHL and NHL Players Association are working on a return-to-play proposal that could see the typical playoff field expanded from 16 teams to 24 teams if, and when, the 2020 season resumes. Because so much time has already been lost to the coronavirus stoppage, the proposal would essentially bring the playoffs to an immediate start upon the resumption of the NHL, potentially forgoing the remainder of the regular season.
NHLPA announced that its executive committee has voted to further discuss the plan with the owners. Any of the details would still need to be agreed to by the parties.
The NHLPA Executive Board has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format, subject to reaching an overall agreement with the League on resuming the 2019-20 season: https://t.co/SIzQYyooEE pic.twitter.com/9TftmApiGJ— NHLPA (@NHLPA) May 23, 2020
Now, the Blues would still be in a pretty favorable position under this scenario, because they would be one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference, meaning they would receive a bye to the round of 16. No weird new play-in round to worry about for St. Louis. Still, the format would introduce an interesting wrinkle for the Note's playoff seeding.
According to the report, the play-in round (the one with which the Blues won't have to concern themselves) would consist of five-game series for the teams outside the top four in each conference. As for the Blues, they would face off against the other three top seeds from the Western conference in mini-tournament that would take place strictly for seeding purposes into the round of 16.
The NHL return-to-play format currently under discussion allows for some jockeying among the top-four teams in each conference (BOS/TB/WASH/PHI ... STL/COL/VGK/DAL). It would see them play each other -- three games, in-conference -- with the outcomes helping determine seeding.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2020
One could argue that such a format would be detrimental to the Blues' potential seed, given that losses in that seeding round could result in St. Louis falling from the one-seed to a four-seed in a matter of three games—still, it would be beneficial for the Blues to play those games as an opportunity to knock the rust off without any potential for being eliminated in the seeding round.
After the seeding round and play-in rounds, the format would return to the traditional seven-game playoff series do determine who moves on to the subsequent rounds.
It's definitely a lot to wrap your head around, but if this modified format happens for the conclusion of the 2020 NHL season, it'll be fascinating to watch NHL clubs ramp up from a multi-month hiatus directly into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Blues resume their second straight title pursuit.
Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.