2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Five playoff teams that could miss postseason in 2020

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It happens every year. Teams that make the playoffs one season, don’t make it the following season. Five teams that made the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs failed to qualify for the postseason in 2019. So, who might those five teams be in 2020?

The five teams that made the playoffs in 2018 that didn’t make them in 2019 are the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.

Of course, the offseason still isn’t over so any of the teams on this list could make a significant trade or signing to change their course this season, but we’ll make an opinion based on the information we have right now.

Clearly, we’re expecting there to be way more turnover in the Eastern Conference than in the Western Conference. After all, non-playoff teams like the Rangers, Flyers, Panthers, Devils and Sabres have all improved their roster. The Canadiens only missed the playoffs by two points, and GM Marc Bergevin won’t be shy about making a splash before the start of training camp. In the West, things seem to be a little more set.

[Five non-playoff teams that could make it in 2020]

So let’s take a look at who those teams might be in 2020.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets finished in the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference in 2018-19, but they’ve lost star forward Artemi Panarin, trade deadline acquisition Matt Duchene and franchise netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Yes, the Jackets have a lot of young talent still on the roster, but too many teams around them got better in the East. Even though they added Gustav Nyquist in free agency, they probably don’t have enough up front to sneak in. Getting this group back into the playoffs would be an unbelievable accomplishment for head coach John Tortorella.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes have been able to keep their group together for the most part. They lost Curtis McElhinney in free agency and they traded Calvin de Haan to the Chicago Blackhawks. Free agent Micheal Ferland hasn’t signed with anybody yet, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be returning to Carolina. The ‘Canes were one of the big surprises in the NHL last season. We just need to find out if they can do it again. Will a duo of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer be able to carry them back to the playoffs, let alone an Eastern Conference Final?

New York Islanders: Like Carolina, the Islanders have to show that their group is capable of repeating everything they were able to accomplish last season. Barry Trotz was able to get the most out of this group but there’s no denying they caught the league by surprise a little bit last year. Now that teams will have an offseason to adjust, can Trotz get them to buy in to his defense-first system, again? The good news is that they were able to bring back Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle. Now, Semyon Varlamov has to do what Robin Lehner did last year.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Pittsburgh Penguins: There’s some question marks surrounding the Penguins heading into the season. Last season, they managed to collect 100 points but they were swept by the Islanders in the opening round of the playoffs. They’ve made some changes to their roster by trading away Olli Maatta and Phil Kessel. Yes, they’ve added Dominik Kahun and Alex Galchenyuk, but the defense isn’t getting any younger.

St. Louis Blues: I don’t want to sleep on the Stanley Cup Champions, but the reality is that they were in last place in early January, got hot, and won the cup. They can’t be dismissed, but Stanley Cup hangovers are a real thing. Also, can Jordan Binnington pick up where he left off in the Stanley Cup Final? They haven’t lost any big pieces but they haven’t added much either.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Report: NHL, NHLPA agree not to change playoff format

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The NHL’s current playoff format is reportedly sticking around, at least for one more season.

According to a report from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to extend the format, as well as the current divisional alignment, for one more year. Even though it will continue to be a talking point, the earliest possible change to the format will not be until the 2020-21 season, if one even happens.

The NHL has used the current divisional format since the 2013-14 season.

It is set up so the top-three teams in each division are automatically in the playoffs, while the remaining two spots in each conference are Wild Card teams. The division winners play the Wild Card teams in Round 1, while the second and third place teams face each other.

It is a format designed to create and focus on rivalries, which it absolutely does and has given us some amazing early round matchups in recent years.

Critics of the format, however, don’t like that it can often times guarantee that a top-team in the league gets eliminated in the first-or second-round depending on the strength of the division the play in.

Last year, for example, Nashville and Winnipeg, the teams with the two best records in the league, ended up meeting in Round 2. It was a similar story the year before when Pittsburgh and Washington met in the second round.

This year, Boston and Toronto (the third and fifth best records at the moment) are slated to meet in Round 1, with the winner possibly having to play Tampa Bay (the best team in the league) in round two if it wins its first round series.

Lightning forward Steven Stamkos was one of the players that recently questioned the format.

“It is what it is,” said Stamkos, via TSN. “It has been that way for a while now. You’re going to have to beat the best teams to win anyways whether it’s the first round or the conference finals. I understand where they’re coming from from a marketing perspective, wanting to get some rivalries early on, but I think from a perspective of what you’re grinding 82 games for during a season is to finish as high as you can so you can have that advantage come playoffs.”

“I don’t think that’s an advantage to Toronto or Boston to be, what could be the top three teams in the whole league from one division, and then to have to play that team in the first round. I don’t think that’s right, and saying that you saw what [Pittsburgh] and [Washington] had to deal with for the last couple years. It is what it is. You can’t change it now, but I don’t think it’s the most fair in terms of why you play and the advantage you’re supposed to have come playoff time.”

It might not be ideal to have a top team go out early, but there are some fantastic possibilities for Round 1 matchups this season (Boston-Toronto is a given, as is San Jose-Vegas, and both should be amazing; Nashville-Winnipeg is also possibility) that are going to be incredible to watch.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.