The National Hockey League's popularity spiked once again this year after the league confirmed that a 24-team playoff format will take place as their return-to-play plan. The coronavirus pandemic has created a one-year hiatus from the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs to ensure that all squads in contention received a berth.
We've touched upon the five teams that benefit the most from the new format, but here are five that were the most screwed over by the league's new initiative.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
The new playoff format was approved by a 29-2 vote. One of the two teams to veto the tournament were the Carolina Hurricanes, who weren't too fond of having to play the New York Rangers in the play-in round. This season, the Rangers swept the Canes through their four contests, and outscored them 17-10. Once the league resumes play, the Hurricanes will have to contend with Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, along with the returns of winger Chris Kreider and goaltender Igor Shesterkin -- and, remember, that team wouldn't have even made the playoffs under the normal format. Good luck, Hurricanes. You're going to need it.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
The 2019-20 season has not gone the way the Toronto Maple Leafs and their rabid fanbase had envisioned. They dealt with countless injuries, and embarrassingly lost to their own zamboni driver. Before the campaign halted due to the global pandemic, it appeared the Leafs were destined to go golfing in April. However, they did get a shot to compete for the Stanley Cup, but they have to deal with the tough and physical Columbus Blue Jackets in the play-in round. If the Leafs find a way to advance, they'd likely face the Boston Bruins in the first round, aka their kryptonite. If that happens, we all know how that's going to end.
3. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers were a welcome surprise this season. For once, Connor McDavid was on a winning team. His prize for all his hard work? Why, a first-round matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks, of course! Prior to the league vote, the Oilers weren't fond of the initial best-of-three play-in round format because they'd have to deal with Chicago's star winger Patrick Kane. Throughout his career, Kane has tallied 50 goals and 73 assists in 127 playoff games. If the past decade has taught hockey fans anything, it's that the Blackhawks are dangerous come playoff time.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Just like the Oilers, the Pittsburgh Penguins were against the new format. Instead of a winger, they were concerned with Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. While Pittsburgh will play a best-of-five, the Canadiens have the mental advantage heading into the playoffs. The Penguins have loudly complained that Price would be the main reason they'd be eliminated early in the playoffs. It's no secret that Price is a monster between the pipes in the postseason, as he tallied a .914 save percentage and 2.52 goals allowed average in 60 games. Now, Montreal has all the momentum heading into the play-in round, thanks to the vocal disapproval by the Penguins. Advice to Pittsburgh: stop doing that!
1. St. Louis Blues
Before the halt to the season, the St. Louis Blues were in the driver's seat to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference. That's no longer the case now. Instead, the Blues will have to fight for it in a round-robin. It's not going to come easy, as they have to play the speedy Colorado Avalanche, the well-rounded Vegas Golden Knights, and a true dark horse in the Dallas Stars. Many believe the Bruins should be on this list, but they have a much easier field to clinch the top seed in the East than the Blues. While St. Louis has the talent to pull it off, they're going to be physically spent once the first official round of the playoffs begins.