The Return of Sports: Predictions for the rest of the NBA season

The calendar has turned to July, and now all four of America’s biggest sports have plans to return to action. The NBA and MLB are both set to start this month, and the NHL is likely to do the same. The NFL will start training camp towards the end of the month as well. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making predictions about the sports that are returning, starting with the NBA and MLB (since they have set return dates).

The NBA is set to begin at Walt Disney World on July 30 with 8 additional regular season games for each team, known as seeding games. From there, the top 7 teams in each conference will slot into the NBA’s playoff bracket. If the 9 seed is within four games of the 8 seed, they’ll get the chance to compete with the 8 seed for a playoff spot. If they beat the 8 seed in both of two play-in games, they’re in.

Below are my predictions for the final NBA playoff seeding and my NBA playoff bracket. Realistically, there are 4-5 teams that I think have a legitimate chance at a title. Keep reading to find out which teams those are, and which team I have taking it all.

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The Return of Sports: Latest on NBA, MLB Returns

When it comes to sports news, this week has been a tale of two extremes. The NBA started the week off rather quiet after Adam Silver discussed his hope to bring the NBA back on July, but over the last couple of days he has put the proposal into action, ironing out the details and giving it to the NBA owners for a vote. Now, the NBA joins the NHL among sports leagues with an official plan to return.

The only major sports league that hasn’t worked out the details is the MLB. Early this week, it appeared that the MLB and MLBPA were making progress with their negotiations. The owners rejected the MLBPA’s 114-game proposal with the original prorated salary plan the MLB decided upon in March. The MLB considered a counter to the plan with 50-60 games and that same prorated salary, but decided not to counter. Now, negotiations are at a standstill until the MLBPA sends in a better plan, and reports are saying both sides have “greater pessimism than ever before” about a 2020 season happening at all.

Today, I’ll be writing about the latest details on the NBA’s return and explain my return to play plan that I think the MLB and MLBPA would both agree to.

Let’s start with the good news from the NBA.

NBA to Bring 22 teams to Orlando for July 31 Return to Play

The NBA’s plan for a July 31 return. Below I have outlined what new information we have received since my last update, what I think of this plan and what I think the return could look like logistically.

What we now know:

  • The NBA has decided upon a 22 team format for it’s return
  • The top 8 from each conference as well as the next 6 teams in the overall standings (listed above) will be included
  • Teams will play 8 “regular season” games in order to reach 70+ games and determine seeding for the playoffs
    • The games will be determined based on the original remaining schedule, but not all details are finalized
    • One report said that teams will play their next 8 games that are against other teams in the NBA bubble. If their upcoming opponent is not in the bubble or has already played 8 games, the opponent will be skipped
  • If the #9 seed is within four games of the #8 seed, there will be a play-in series:
    • The 8 seed would start with a 1-0 advantage in a 3 game series
    • This means the 8 seed would only need to win one game, while the 9 seed would need to win two in a row
  • It appears that the playoffs will run as normal (8 East teams and 8 West teams seeded by conference)
  • Games will not begin until July 31, but training in Orlando will begin between July 9-11
  • The season will be completed on October 12, followed by an October 15 draft and October 18 beginning to free agency
  • The draft lottery will take place on August 25
  • Up to 7 games could be played each day, using three different arenas at Disney
  • The 2020-21 season is still set to begin close to Christmas; the league appears to be planning for a full 82 game season that runs through August; it could even shift the schedule permanently

My Thoughts on the Plan

I think 22 teams is kind of a weird number, and teams will likely finish with different numbers of regular season games, but the plan was based on historical late season playoff run stats, so it’s hard to argue with Adam Silver, who has a very good track record as the NBA commissioner. This plan gives players about a month to train at team facilities before traveling to Orlando in early July, when COVID-19 numbers will have likely seen a further decline. Staying inside the bubble for majority of the time and testing daily adds further safety measures to a return to play.

One thing I would like to see is some minor modifications to the schedule to make sure that each team in the bubble has played each other team in the bubble at least once. If you look at the NBA schedule from before the pause, there are three pairs of teams (out of the 22 in the bubble) that have yet to play a game this season. The Clippers have not yet played the Nets, the Raptors have not yet played the Grizzlies, and the Pelicans have not yet played the Wizards. I think each of those match-ups should happen at least once before playoff action begins.

What the Scheduling Details Could Look Like:

Considering what we know, I think the schedule for the remainder of the season and next couple seasons could look something like this:

  • July 31 – August 14: Resumption of Regular Season
  • August 16 – August 19: Play-in Games
  • August 21 – September 3: Conference Quarterfinals
  • September 4 – September 16: Conference Semifinals
  • September 17 – September 29: Conference Finals
  • September 30 – October 12: NBA Finals
  • October 15: 2020 NBA Draft
  • October 18: NBA Free Agency Begins
  • December 25: 2020-21 NBA Season Begins
  • August 2021: 2020-21 Season Ends, 2021 Draft and Free Agency
  • The 2021-22 season would either begin in October as normal or the NBA calendar would change permanently

Games could be aired on local stations as well as ABC, ESPN, or TNT. I think 5-6 games will be played per day during the regular season, with teams playing just about every two days (with the occasional back-to-back or drought).

I feel that the NBA could benefit from a permanent calendar change, as they would run through the winter alongside hockey and through the spring and early summer alongside baseball. Basketball’s conclusion would correlate with football’s beginning, allowing the nation’s two biggest sports to dominate.

This would be very good for the NBA and NFL, and the NHL already thrives alongside the NBA. The one sport that could be negatively impacted is baseball, which is already losing fans.

MLB Continues to Struggle in 2020 Season Negotiations

After the MLB owners rejected the MLBPA proposal for the 2020 season, it appears MLB negotiations are currently at a standstill. While other sports have reached agreements to return, the chances of a 2020 MLB season are looking slimmer and slimmer. This is because the players don’t want to take too big a pay cut if they’re going to be risking their lives, and the owners don’t want to lose revenue. You could also say poor leadership on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s part is to blame. But I think it’s important that both sides come to a compromise, because if they don’t, the consequences could be hard to recover from.

The MLB was already planning to cut minor league teams after losing revenue. If the MLB is sitting around while the NBA and NHL dominate the summer, the league will lose even more fans and even more money. If negotiations continue to go along like this, I don’t know if we’ll see baseball for a long time. The pandemic isn’t expected to be fully over until 2021, and after the 2021 MLB season, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. That would mean more negotiation between the owners and MLBPA and the potential of a league lockout. If the MLB loses two years to the virus and has a lockout after that, I can’t see them maintaining their reputation as a Big 4 sports league in the US, and I don’t know if the league will be able to survive at all, especially if the NBA pushes forward their season permanently. As an avid baseball fan, this worries me greatly, and I really hope the MLB can come to a compromise, hold a season, and continue to thrive. If this is it for baseball, Manfred and the owners, as well as the players will all be held accountable. The owners and Manfred need to understand that their current greed could bite them in the back later. The players need to understand that failure to compromise now could mean their playing careers are over.

Here is a full proposal that I think both sides could agree to. It includes things that both sides want, and includes a compromise, with players making about 50% of their salaries in a 78 game season.


With most of the country on a decline in terms of coronavirus cases, the timeline really comes down to the league’s ability to compromise. If this proposal is agreed upon soon, it could be good to start things off quickly and try and become the first sport to return, which could bring some lost fans back. In mid-June, I think it would be fine for a 2.5 week preseason to begin. With enough players on the roster, teams could scrimmage against themselves during the preseason to minimize travel. But by 4th of July weekend, I think teams should at least be able to travel to other close stadiums, which means a season could begin with modified divisions.

The Three Divisions:

East (Combined AL East and NL East)

Blue Jays
Red Sox

Central (Combined AL Central in NL Central)

White Sox

West (Combined AL West and NL West)


In the worst case scenario, teams could play at Spring Training stadiums (East in Florida, West in Arizona) and Minor League stadiums in Texas for the Central Division.

Rule Changes:

Permanent Rule Changes:

  • All teams play with a designated hitter
  • The wild card playoff round will consist of 3 games, not 1 game
  • The league could even abolish the AL and NL for good, or expand/realign when COVID-19 is over

Temporary Rule Changes (just this season):

  • No fans in the stadium
  • All players, coaches, reporters, and staff must go through the following process before stadium entry and stadium exit:
    • Coronavirus Testing
    • Hand Sanitizing
    • Temperature Check
    • Mask Check (Must be wearing a mask into the stadium)
  • All players, coaches, reporters, and staff must wear a face mask during the game
  • No more than 50 people in the clubhouse or dugout at once
  • Teams may hold 50 players on the roster in order to make up for canceled minor league seasons, but only 30 may show up for each game
  • Instead of tagging players out, defenders must always tag the base
  • No direct contact between players, coaches, and staff is allowed
  • No hand-to-face contact (like pitchers licking fingers) or spitting during the game
  • Players may be disciplined for failing to practice social distancing measures inside or outside the stadium

Regular Season Schedule:

This season, teams should only play other teams in their revised division. Teams will play a total of 78 games across 24 series:

  • A home and away three-game series against each team (54 games across 18 series’)
  • Two extra four game series’ (home and away) against three designated rivals (24 games across 6 series’)

Here are my proposed rivalry series’. These teams will play 14 games against each other instead of the standard 6. Rivalries are based on original divisions, rivalry history, and location.

Rivalries in East Division:

Blue Jays: Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees
Braves: Nationals, Marlins, Phillies
Marlins: Rays, Braves, Mets
Mets: Phillies, Yankees, Marlins
Nationals: Braves, Phillies, Orioles
Orioles: Blue Jays, Rays, Nationals
Phillies: Mets, Nationals, Braves
Rays: Marlins, Orioles, Red Sox
Red Sox: Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays
Yankees: Red Sox, Mets, Blue Jays

Teams play mostly divisional rivals in these games, but three inter-league rivalries are included in order for the schedule to work. I matched up the Yankees and Mets (cross-town rivals), Rays and Marlins (cross-state rivals), and Orioles and Nationals, who play very close to each other.

Rivalries in Central Division:

Brewers: Cubs, Reds, Pirates
Cardinals: Royals, Pirates, Cubs
Cubs: Brewers, White Sox, Cardinals
Indians: White Sox, Tigers, Reds
Pirates: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers
Reds: Pirates, Brewers, Indians
Royals: Cardinals, Twins, Tigers
Tigers: Twins, Indians, Royals
Twins: Tigers, Royals, White Sox
White Sox: Indians, Cubs, Twins

As I did in the Eastern Division, I included three inter league rivalries here: the White Sox and Cubs (all-Chicago), the Cardinals and Royals (all-Missouri), and the Indians and Reds (all-Ohio).

Rivalries in Western Division:

Angels: Dodgers, Athletics, Rangers
Astros: Rangers, Diamondbacks, Mariners
Athletics: Mariners, Angels, Giants
Dodgers: Angels, Giants, Padres
Diamondbacks: Padres, Astros, Rockies
Giants: Rockies, Dodgers, Athletics
Mariners: Athletics, Rangers, Astros
Padres: Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers
Rangers: Astros, Mariners, Angels
Rockies: Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks

There are two obvious inter-league match-ups here. I matched up the Giants and Athletics (both Bay Area) and the Dodgers and Angels (both LA). For the third match-up, I figured I’d have the Astros, a former NL team, take on the Diamondbacks, the closest NL West team to Texas.

Playoff Schedule and Seeding:

A 24 series schedule should take about 12 weeks. 12 weeks from 4th of July weekend would take us to late September. This means the playoffs could start early, allowing for a three game wild card round.

The MLB is talking about a 14-team playoff, but I would still propose a 10-team playoff field, as 78 games is plenty of time to determine who the true contenders in the league are. Seeding would go as follows:

Seeds 1-3: Division winners seeded by record
Seeds 4-6: Division runner-ups seeded by record
Seeds 7-10: 4 best remaining teams (wild card teams) seeded by record

Here’s the playoff timeline I would propose:

Wild Card Series (3 games in 3 days):

September 25-September 27

Quarterfinals (5 games in 7 days):

September 29-October 5

Semifinals (7 games in 9 days):

October 7-October 15

World Series (7 games in 11 days):

October 19-October 29

A 4 day break would take place before the World Series to allow teams to rest up, in addition to rest in between World Series games. This format would also make for some interesting match-ups, as seeding is not divided by AL and NL. There could be an AL team against an NL team in Round 1, or even two teams from the same league in the World Series. Imagine a Red Sox-Yankees World Series!

The playoffs would involve more travel than the regular season, but the hope is that travel concerns have lessened by the time late September comes around. If not, playoffs could be played in a central location (maybe Florida spring training ballparks?)

This schedule would allow the off-season to begin on a regular timeline and hopefully, the next season would be able to begin as normal, possibly even with fans back.

I do think the ideas of universal DH and a 3-game wild card round should stay in effect though. These ideas have been in conversation for a long time, and now is the perfect opportunity to give it a try and hopefully stick with it after success.

Even if they don’t follow this timeline and jump into action this quickly (which I don’t honestly expect to happen), a plan like this would be a good compromise and would be safe, as those who test positive for the virus or feel sick would not be allowed into the stadium and would be forced to self-isolate.

That’s all for this edition of the Return of Sports. I may have more entries to this column in the coming weeks if additional news about any sport comes out, and I will also be writing about my experiences watching these sports in their new formats. In the meantime, I’ll still be continuing with the NFC half of my NFL Draft Report Cards, and I’ll have my predictions for the resumption of the NBA and NHL seasons out soon.

The Return of Sports: NBA Announces Target Date, Gov. Baker Permits Resumption of Sports Practices

The MLB is nowhere near an agreement for a return to play, as both owners and players try to minimize financial losses, and I’ll be reporting on that situation eventually. But in today’s column, I wanted to talk about the NBA’s updated plans for return and governor Charlie Baker’s update on Boston sports. Despite so many unknowns, coronavirus numbers have continued to decline, allowing people to begin thinking about returning closer to normal, and a return of major sports leagues would absolutely bring us closer. With multiple pieces of very good news in the sports world today, I have plenty to talk about in this column.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Permits Sports Practices to Resume

Boston sports facilities will be allowed to reopen on June 6, according to Governor Charlie Baker. This opens the door for sports to return in the city of Boston, and with major sports leagues trying to coordinate returns, that is very good news. Sports will not come back until there are enough cities permitting their return. Boston joins the list. As a result, the Celtics will be opening the Red Auerbach Center, their own practice facility. Hopefully, this also opens the door for the TD Garden to be considered as a central hub for NHL games, since the Bruins are the #1 team in the Eastern Conference and would benefit from some form of home field advantage, even without fans in the stadium.

Adam Silver Announces Intention for 7/31 NBA Return

Adam Silver announced today that he is hoping for a July 31 return for the NBA. He had already said he was targeting late July/early August, but it’s good to hear a definitive date. It would be nice if they could start a little bit earlier, but it gives the league time to work towards gameplay, starting with small group training, then moving into formal training camp, and then finally playing games, just like the NHL. Below is what we know and how I think this plan will play out.

What We Know (The Facts)

  • The league will resume in one central hub: Orlando, Florida
  • Games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World
  • The league may also consider using the Orlando Magic stadium or the UCF stadium for games
  • For when the league does return, there are four potential formats being discussed:
    • A 16 team format
    • A 20 team format
    • A 22 team format
    • A 30 team format
  • The league is unsure whether the regular season will be continued or whether the league will skip to some sort of playoff

As you can see, not much has been decided yet, but at this point we know the league has picked a location, has a proposed return date, and is working to decide on a format.

What the Logistics of a Return could Look Like

The NHL has already established a format for the postseason, and I went ahead and speculated what the timeline could look like. The NBA already has somewhat of a timeline, but below I have proposed a playoff format that I think will fairly decide an NBA champion and written how the logistics of it could work out:

20-Team Playoff Bracket Proposal

I think a fair conclusion to the season would be a 20 team playoff based on overall NBA standings. If you look at the NBA standings right now, there is a clear divide in the Eastern Conference standings. But there are several Western Conference teams close to the top 8 that deserve their fair chance this season. The NBA has already been contemplating seeding based on overall standings (regardless of conference), and since games will be played in one city, I don’t see a problem with that, especially because it can give additional Western Conference teams a fair chance in an expanded playoff bracket. The NHL decided to expand their postseason, and I see the NBA doing the same.

Here’s what the timeline could potentially look like:

  • Early-Mid June: NBA practice facilities reopen
  • Late June: NBA Draft Lottery with 10 teams missing playoffs
  • Friday, July 10: All 20 playoff teams report to Orlando for formal training camp
  • Friday, July 31 – Sunday, August 9: Best of 5 play-in series
  • Monday, August 10 – Sunday, August 23 – Round of 16
  • Monday, August 24 – Sunday, September 6 – Quarterfinals
  • Monday, September 7 – Sunday, September 20 – Semifinals
  • Monday, September 21 – Sunday, October 4 – NBA Finals
  • Thursday, October 8 – 2020 NBA Draft
  • Monday, October 12 – NBA Free Agency Begins
  • Early November – NBA Preseason
  • Early December – 66 Game NBA Season Begins
    • 4 Games vs. Each Division Team (Total of 16)
    • 2 Games vs. Each Other Team (Total of 50)

The NBA is targeting a later start to the 2020-21 season in order to make way for a satisfying ending to the 2019-20 season. The 2020-21 season would look similar to the 2011-12 season after the last NBA lockout.

In the play-in round and the later rounds, all games could be played during prime time, as games would be played every other day and there are enough courts in Orlando for two games at once. In the Round of 16, games could take place both at 7PM and at 9PM, with 4 games across 2 courts each day. They would only need two channels airing games. ABC/ESPN could handle some games, while TNT handles others.

With this format, I think the Bucks and Lakers would still have the best shot at winning it all, but I think the Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, and Heat among other teams would also have a chance.

That’s all for today, but I’ll be updating again soon with the latest news on the MLB negotiations and updates on the NHL and NBA.

The Return of Sports: My Take on the NHL’s Plan to Return

It’s going to be around another month before we actually see hockey again, but today, the NHL became the first of America’s 4 largest sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) to announce their plan for a return to play. This was really inspiring to hear, especially after reports that the MLB is nowhere near an agreement with its players on a return. It means I can begin to speculate about the NHL playoffs, and there’s now a timeline in place for sports to return.

Before we get into the details, I’d like to talk a little bit about my plans for this website as the country reopens, the online school year winds down, and sports come closer to a return.

I’ll be working on editing down my journal about the first 75 days of quarantine, which I called “Life Without Sports”. In the meantime, I’ll be:

  • Continuing my NFL Draft Report Cards series
  • Starting this new column, The Return of Sports, where I discuss the upcoming return of sports leagues and eventually, my experiences watching sports in this new normal.

As summer approaches, I’ll also be getting more active on my fantasy football Instagram account, @bsmfantasyfootball as NFL minicamps are set to begin as early as June 15 and preparation for the fantasy football season begins.

But today, I’ll be focusing on the NHL’s plan to return to play, which was announced by commissioner Gary Bettman on an NBCSN special.

What We Know (The Facts)

  • Bettman said today that the NHL is currently in Phase 1 of its pause, in which all NHL facilities remain closed
  • Phase 2, the reopening of facilities for small group training will officially begin on June 1
  • Phase 3, a formal NHL training camp, will begin no earlier than July 1
  • About 2-3 weeks after the beginning of Phase 3, a 24-team NHL playoff. The NHL regular season is over.
  • How the playoff will work:
    • Games will be played at central hubs, one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. The cities in the running to be central hubs are:
      • Chicago, IL (Home of the Blackhawks)
      • Columbus, OH (Home of the Blue Jackets)
      • Dallas, TX (Home of the Stars)
      • Edmonton, AB (Home of the Oilers)
      • Las Vegas, NV (Home of the Golden Knights)
      • Los Angeles, CA (Home of the Kings)
      • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (Home of the Wild)
      • Pittsburgh, PA (Home of the Penguins)
      • Toronto, ON (Home of the Maple Leafs)
      • Vancouver, BC (Home of the Canucks)
    • Round Robin: The top four teams in each conference will participate in a Round Robin, with each team playing each of the three other teams from their conference once (regular season overtime rules will apply)
    • Qualifying Round: Teams 5-12 in each conference will be matched up for a best of 5 series to qualify for the Round of 16.
    • Round of 16 and Round of 8: Will be best of 5 of best of 7, the league is unsure whether they will put together a formal playoff bracket or determine match-ups based on seeding like the NFL playoffs
    • Conference Finals: Will be best of 7, played in the two hub cities
    • Stanley Cup Finals: Also best of 7, will likely be in one of the two hub cities

My Thoughts on the Plan

Do I Think the Plan is Fair?

Overall, I think this is a fair plan for the continuation of the NHL season. The bottom 3-4 teams in each conference had little chance at playoff contention, and the round robins and qualifying rounds essentially replace the rest of the regular season with more meaningful games, which will definitely increase viewership. In addition, I like the initiative the NHL and NHLPA took in getting a plan in place. If this planning allows the NHL to be the first of the Big 4 sports to return, that will also increase viewership. Normally, I’m juggling the MLB season, NBA playoffs, and NHL playoffs. I’ll absolutely watch if the NHL is the first Big 4 sport to return.

Though I am a bit disappointed that the Bruins aren’t guaranteed the #1 seed, the regular season resuming wouldn’t guarantee that either. Like Gary Bettman said, there is no plan that will fully satisfy every NHL fan. Overall, the top four teams in each conference have a significant advantage over the other teams, and those were the teams that had the best chance at bringing home the Stanley Cup.

One thing that could make it unfair is the fact that 9 of the 10 potential central hubs would give a singular team the home field advantage (they would not have to travel). If possible, I think it would be good for the NHL to choose Boston, MA (home of the #1 Eastern Conference team, the Bruins) and St. Louis, MO (home of the #1 Western Conference team, the Blues) as hub cities. However, those two cities are not on the list.

The plan is not perfect, but I think it gives us a pretty fair conclusion to the season for all 31 teams. The 7 teams that were eliminated will have a huge advantage in the NHL draft lottery (except for the Sharks, who traded their 1st rounder to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade).

How Might the Logistics and Timeline Work Out?

I’ve always been interested in analytics, and I’ve followed COVID-19 metrics very closely. It appears that most U.S. states are past their peak and entering an overall decline. It will be important to see how the reopening of all 50 states and Phase 2 of the NHL pause impact public health before jumping into Phase 3. But I’m confident that Phase 3 will begin on July 1. Since NHL players will be training throughout June, I think it’s possible that the Round Robin and qualifying rounds could begin after two weeks of Phase 3. If all this is true, the following would be my proposed timeline for the NHL:

  • Wednesday, July 15: Teams report to hub cities (hopefully Boston and St. Louis, but I think the best options from Bettman’s list would be Pittsburgh, PA and Las Vegas, NV)
  • Thursday, July 16 – Saturday, July 25: Round Robin games and Qualifying Round take place
  • Sunday, July 26 – Tuesday, August 4 – 5-game Round of 16 (match-ups determined by formal bracket)
  • Wednesday, August 5 – Friday, August 14 – 5-game Round of 8
  • Saturday, August 15 – Friday, August 28 – 7-game Conference finals
  • Saturday, August 29 – Thursday, September 10 – 7-game Stanley Cup finals (hosted in hub city of team with the better point percentage)
  • Saturday, September 12 – 2020 NHL Draft
  • Monday, September 14 – 2020 NHL Free Agency Begins (Three Weeks to Finalize Rosters)
  • Monday, September 21 – 2020-21 NHL Preseason Begins
  • Monday, October 5 – 2020-21 NHL Regular Season Begins as normal (possibly still no fans)

I think this is a realistic timeline for the NHL to safely play games. I think the NHL should stick to a formal bracket and cut down the the Rounds of 16 and 8 to five games in order to complete the playoffs in time for the 2020-21 season to begin. They’ll have to speed up free agency and cut those rounds to five games in order to do this.

In the qualifying round, I would think teams would play just about every other day, meaning three games are played in each hub city every day. For the East, these games could be at 2PM, 5PM, and 8PM EST, while the West could have games at 2PM, 5PM, and 8PM PST. I think qualifying games should take priority over the Round Robin, so the Round Robin should be the first game each day (further away from prime time).

Once the 16-team bracket is set, it would be down to two games per city per day, in which teams could rotate between the 5PM and 8PM slots.

Once it’s down to 8 teams, every game could be a prime time game.

This could bring in a lot of viewers, especially if the NHL comes back before other sports.

Games could be aired on channels like NBC, NBCSN and the NHL Network and simulcasted onto local stations (like NESN in Boston) for people who don’t have NHL Network or NBCSN in their cable packages.

Who Will Succeed in this Modified Format

Which Teams have the best shot at the Stanley Cup?

I think this format favors the top four teams in each conference heavily. Before the pause, the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Blues, and Stars stood out to me as teams who could contend for a Stanley Cup. Below I’ve ranked the teams who qualify for the Round Robin based on the chance I think they have at winning the Stanley Cup.

SportsReport: Bruins Top Canadiens; Wild Beats Devils | WAMC

1) Boston Bruins: They’ve been dominating all season long, their first line is stacked and they have good depth to add to it.

Tampa Bay Lightning, Storm Renew With Clear Channel/Tampa | Tampa ...

2) Tampa Bay Lightning: If Steven Stamkos is healthy, they’ll have one of the most star-studded rosters in the league and pose a big threat in the Eastern Conference.

dallas stars logo | Dallas Stars Logo | Dallas stars, Dallas stars ...

3) Dallas Stars: The Stars barely made it into the Round Robin, but I could see them making a big playoff run with Tyler Seguin leading the team and a mix of other veteran talent and young talent around him.

St. Louis Blues Jersey Logo - National Hockey League (NHL) - Chris ...

4) St. Louis Blues: The defending Stanley Cup champs beat the Bruins in 2019, but they’ve been without Vladimir Tarasenko all season. Even with Tarasenko back, will things be the same?

NHL logo rankings No. 28: Washington Capitals - TheHockeyNews

5) Washington Capitals: The Caps have been an elite team in this league since Alex Ovechkin reached his prime, but can they repeat the playoff success they had a couple years back?

Vegas Golden Knights - Studio 21 Tattoo

6) Vegas Golden Knights: They don’t quite have the talent they had during their historic Year 1 Stanley Cup run, and they may have lost their momentum after a big run before the pause. But I could still see them winning it all if they can get past St. Louis and Dallas in their conference.

Gonna Fly Now: The Story Behind the Philadelphia Flyers Brand ...

7) Philadelphia Flyers: I think they’ll have a hard time fending off their competition in the Round Robin and that could derail their playoff run, but they still have the talent to win a Cup.

Colorado Avalanche Logo | HISTORY & MEANING & PNG

8) Colorado Avalanche: It says something that they were able to compete with the Blues and Stars in their division, but even with Nathan MacKinnon, I don’t think they have a Stanley Cup run in them.

Who Will Make the Round of 16?

I’ll have full playoff predictions once the details are ironed out, but here’s my prediction of the 8 playoff teams in each conference by seed:

Eastern Conference

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins
  6. Carolina Hurricanes
  7. Florida Panthers (will upset New York Islanders in qualifier)
  8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Vegas Golden Knights (Increase from Round Robin)
  3. Dallas Stars (Increase from Round Robin)
  4. Colorado Avalanche (Decrease from Round Robin)
  5. Edmonton Oilers
  6. Nashville Predators
  7. Vancouver Canucks
  8. Calgary Flames

As you can see, I don’t see many teams being affected by the Round Robin and qualifying round, but it will give teams their fair chance.

That’s all for this first entry of the Return to Sports series. I’ll be back next week with my take on the ongoing MLB negotiations and with any other updates that come about this week.