On Tuesday, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the 2019-20 NHL regular season is over. There is still a chance for a Nashville Predators playoff run this year, however.
Bettman also laid out the format for how the league plans to conduct its postseason, should circumstances provide. At this point, however, there are still several major parts of the plan that are up in the air.
What we know about a possible Predators playoff run
Bettman stressed several times during his press conference that health and safety are the primary concerns. He also emphasized that, like every other business, the NHL is subject to federal, local, and provincial/state government authorities.
Should everything line up well, the NHL plans to hold a 24-team tournament. The field will contain the top 12 teams by points percentage in each conference when the regular season abruptly ended on March 12.
With 78 points, Nashville is part of that group in the Western Conference. The Predators are seeded sixth in the conference, which will make them part of a qualifying round structure.
The top four teams in each conference will play each other in a round-robin format to determine seedings for the conference quarterfinals round. The other eight teams in each conference will play a best of five series in a No. 5 vs. No. 12, No. 6 vs. No. 11, etc. format.
Nashville will face the 11th-seeded Arizona Coyotes. Should the Predators prevail over Arizona three times in that series, Nashville will move on to face either the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, or Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
According to odds from DraftKings Tennessee, the Predators are +1700 to win the conference and an even longer +3500 to win the Stanley Cup.
That’s all that is certain right now. Everything else, like when these games will take place, where the teams will play them and how many games they will play, is all to be determined.
What we don’t know about the 2019-20 NHL playoffs
Bettman stated and restated that this will be a phased return. The NHL does have some dates in mind as goals, along with some possible venues for games as well.
Bettman stated that the league is now in the first phase of its three-phase plan. The second phase, which the NHL targets for early June, will involve voluntary training for groups of six players at a time.
The third phase will essentially consist of a training camp. The NHL has its sights set on early July for that. Bettman stated that he doesn’t foresee a start to the postseason before mid-July.
While teams will conduct these training sessions in their facilities, conditions allowing, the qualifying rounds and conference quarterfinals will take place in two hub cities. Bettman specified that one hub city would host Eastern Conference teams and the other will host Western Conference teams.
Bettman stressed that the league has not made any decisions on two cities for those purposes yet. He did list 10 contenders right now, however. No cities in Tennessee made that shortlist. Those cities are:
- Chicago, IL
- Columbus, OH
- Dallas, TX
- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- Las Vegas, NV
- Los Angeles, CA
- Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Bettman said the league still has to decide whether it will re-seed the conference quarterfinals and semifinals. Additionally, he couldn’t commit to whether the conference quarterfinals and semifinals would be best-of-five or best-of-seven series.
Perhaps most importantly for Predators fans, Bettman didn’t commit one way or another in regards to whether the games would be open to spectators. The situation remains in flux, just like the launch of legal sports betting in Tennessee.
Will legal sports betting apps be live in TN in time?
Like where the Predators will begin their 2019-20 playoff run, this is anyone’s guess right now. Although the Tennessee Lottery is actively accepting license applications, it has yet to grant any licenses.
Even if the Lottery does so tomorrow, getting up and running in time for the playoffs should they begin in mid-to-late July would be a tall order for those operators. The odds are that the playoffs will begin without sports betting apps up and running in TN.
That doesn’t mean TN residents have no options for legal wagering, however. Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in Arkansas and Mississippi are part of reopening plans in their respective states. In fact, casinos in both states have already reopened.
This will be the best bet for fans of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers as well. The Hurricanes will face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 versus No. 11 matchup, while the Panthers will enter as 10th seed in the East against the seventh-seeded New York Islanders.
The important thing for bettors to remain aware of is that until the NHL announces dates and venues for these games, all this remains in the realm of mere possibility. Regardless, just the fact that a plan for the playoffs exists should whet the appetites of Predators fans.