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Golden Knights in good position if NHL resumes its season

Updated May 21, 2020 - 1:50 pm

A 10-year-old boy wrote a letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during the pause for the coronavirus pandemic with suggestions for when the league returns.

Among his ideas were fishbowl helmets on players, a kiss cam phone app and holograms of fans in the stands. Genius.

But Jax Brenneman of Thornbury, Ontario, also wanted to know when and where hockey was going to officially restart, and Bettman couldn’t offer him any insider information.

“We’ve been working on trying to answer this difficult question,” Bettman wrote as part of his response letter. “For now, it looks like the plan that makes the most sense is to bring groups of our teams to a few cities where we can play several games each day and keep everybody healthy.

“But nothing is set and we will continue to consider any and all ideas — including the ones you’ve sent me.”

While Bettman keeps the restart plan close to the vest, even for adorable youngsters who don’t boo him, indications are the NHL is getting close to finalizing a format. Las Vegas is expected to be involved as one of the hosts in some capacity.

The city could serve as one of the two hubs, with players and staff lodged at a nearby hotel on the Strip and multiple games at T-Mobile Arena each day without fans. It was reported by Le Journal de Montreal that Las Vegas will host the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

As for the Golden Knights, they were first in the Pacific Division when the league shuttered March 12 and don’t have to worry about qualifying. They’re in.

Here’s what the different models would look like for the Knights:

24-team format

Keep in mind this changes by the hour, but the NHL appears to be moving forward with the plan reported by Sportsnet on Wednesday featuring the top 12 teams from each conference based on points percentage.

In this bracket scenario, the division affiliations are tossed aside and the Knights would play a round robin against St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas to determine seeding.

If the Knights are the second seed, they would face either Minnesota or Vancouver in a best-of-seven series. They would draw the Arizona-Nashville series winner as the No. 3 seed and the Chicago-Edmonton winner as the No. 4.

Should the Knights snag the top seed following the round robin, the Calgary-Winnipeg series winner would await.

This is different than the division-based format the NHL has used since 2013.

If the NHL goes with six-team pods based on division, the Knights still probably would receive a first-round bye but then could see a range of opponents.

20-team format

Losing large media markets Chicago and Montreal from the field makes this option less desirable. But it could work similar to the 24-team conference-based format if necessary.

For instance, the No. 7 seed takes on No. 10 while the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds meet in the other play-in round.

If the Knights are the third seed based on points percentage, they would meet sixth-seeded Nashville. As the No. 2 seed, they’d probably face the winner of the Vancouver-Minnesota series.

In a division-based pod model, the Knights are almost certain to open with a bye. As the top seed in the pod, they’d be set up to play the winner of the play-in series between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds.

16-team format

Does the NHL use points to decide the postseason field? Points percentage?

In the traditional points format, the Knights would meet Winnipeg, which owned the top wild card when the standings were frozen.

But since teams haven’t played the same number of games, points percentage is a more equitable way to determine the field. As the Pacific leader, the Knights would get Nashville under those circumstances.

Or, similar to the 24- and 20-team scenarios, the Knights could be seeded second or third based on points percentage and would face either Nashville or Vancouver.

In other words, the Knights better start doing their homework on the Predators.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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