Unique Format for the 2020-21 NHL Season

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In keeping with the interesting times in which we live, the NHL produced an interesting and novel format for the 2020-21 campaign, which they are hoping will be a one-season only kind of deal.

Given the border between Canada and the United States remains closed, an urgent rethink was required by the NHL ahead of the new season, as they pondered how to deal with the lack of travel options for teams between the two different countries. Thankfully, the NHL found the answer with a unique divisional format that promises to be packed with exciting rivalries.

Instead of two conferences which are traditionally split into four divisions, the 2020-21 NHL season will feature an adapted format of four divisions, with logistics and regional proximity forming the basis for which teams play in which division. The schedule has also been reduced to a 56-game Regular Season, with no inter-divisional games being played.

For the first time in NHL history, all seven of the current Canadian franchises will be grouped together to form the North Division. Such a format hasn’t happened since divisions were first established for the 1926-27 season, when the New York Americans also became the first team from south of the border to compete in the NHL.

Although the NHL itself was actually founded in Canada, teams from north of the border haven’t enjoyed much success in recent years. The Vancouver Canucks were last to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, losing out against the Boston Bruins in 2011. Going back even further to 1993, the Montreal Canadiens were the last franchise from the “Great White North” to lift the famous trophy.

Still, at least one Canadian team is tipped to enjoy success under the new League format. Not only are the Toronto Maple Leafs are priced at +150 NHL Betting odds to win the North Division, they are amongst the favorites at +1100 to win the Stanley Cup, if they can live up to expectations of making the Playoffs and going all the way this season.

Meanwhile, all the United States franchises have been split into the three remaining divisions: Central, East, and West. These will feature eight teams in each and just as with the Canadian exclusive North Division, they will play no inter-divisional games. Nevertheless, the regionally focused format does present fans with some enhanced local rivalries to enjoy.

What’s not to like about more encounters between some of the fiercest regional rivals, during the adapted 56-game NHL Regular Season schedule. In the East Division, that means extra battles on the ice between the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, and the Buffalo Sabres. Out in the West Division, more clashes between the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and the Los Angeles Kings.

As part of the revised and revamped format for the 2020-21 NHL season, four teams from each division will qualify for the opening round of the Playoffs. At each stage, teams will play a best-of-7 game series, all the way to the last two who make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, tentatively expected to take place in July 2021.

This new and unique divisional format and schedule is certainly intriguing, and what’s more, aside from the added regional focus and extra encounters between historic local rivals, there are bound to be plenty of twists and turns throughout the season. We could even see some surprise teams making the playoffs, just to add some extra spice.