The announcement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed most of the information released over the weekend regarding a 24-team playoff format and a loose timetable for the resumption of the 2019-20 season.
The top four teams in each conference will receive a bye to the first round, while the teams ranked fifth through 12th would meet in a best-of-five qualifying round. The eighth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs will face the ninth-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets in mid-to-late July, depending on how quickly the league believes it will be safe for players to get together to workout and assemble as a team for training camps in their respective cities.
In a conference call with the media, a list of 10 cities from which the two hubs will be selected in mid-to-late June was revealed, including Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Toronto.
The possibility of Toronto and other Canadian cities being selected may be remote if the Canadian government does not eliminate the 14-day quarantine restrictions or NHL players are given essential status as they have been by the US government.
"We would certainly like to have a city in Canada. As with everything we try to do and with our events, we try to move them around. Try to make sure that our Canadian clubs are well represented and this would be another example of that." Daly said in an interview with TSN's James Duthie . "If we're unable to find some way....I wouldn't say around it, we're looking to be consistent with the 14 day quarantine rule, but maybe expand the bubble of what that means a little bit. We're in discussions with the Canadian government at this point in time on that issue. If we're not able to resolve that issue or solve that issue, I think it effectively eliminates, our ability to come to Canadian city as one of our hub cities."
The NHL Draft Lottery was also clarified. Phase 1 will take place on June 26 with the same percentage breakdown as last year’s lottery. The top three picks will be determined by separate draws that include the seven non-playoff clubs and the eight losing teams from the qualifying round.
If one of the eight teams wins the lottery for first, second or third pick (24.5%), Phase 2 of the lottery will take place after the first round of the playoffs to determine which one is awarded that pick, with each club having an equal chance (12.5%) of getting the pick.
Toronto swapped their 2020 first round pick in Vancouver last June to Carolina to clear the contract of veteran winger Patrick Marleau, with the condition that they would keep the pick and shift to their 2021 first if the Leafs selected in the top 10.
The only way that is possible is if the Leafs are the team selected in Phase 2 and get one of the top three picks, since the highest they could move up in the first round is 11th if Pittsburgh, Carolina, Edmonton, and the NY Islanders (teams with better points percentage) lost along with them in the qualifying round.
Today is the 27th anniversary of what Toronto fans call the "Fabulous Forum Screw Job", when Wayne Gretzky's high stick of Doug Gilmour in overtime of Game 6 of the Western Conference Final was missed by referee Kerry Fraser, costing Toronto a chance at going to the Stanley Cup Final.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******