Lawton: The NHL's 24-team Return To Play format is a 'good idea'

NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton joined Howard and Jeremy on Tuesday to discuss the Return To Play initiative in the NHL

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May 26, 2020 - 12:45 pm

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association, along with the NHL's Return To Play committee were busy over the weekend hammering out details of the Return To Play initiative set for this summer to conclude the 2019-20 season.

On Friday, the NHLPA executive committee voted to approve a new Return To Play format that will see 24 teams compete for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup later this year. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is going to hold a 4:30 p.m. press conference on Tuesday afternoon that is to announce the 24-team format that was agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA.

In addition, the NHL sent out a 21-page memorandum on Monday detailing the framework of Phase 2 for the Return To Play initiative. This Phase of the Return To Play plan will see players returning to their home cities, self-quarantining for a 14-day period, then begin to work out in small groups of six players and workout in on- and off-ice activities.

There was also a report from TVA Sports NHL insider Renaud Lavoie on Monday stating that the NHL is targeting Friday, June 26 as a possible date for the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.

Former NHL forward, general manager and player agent Brian Lawton has seen many things in his days in hockey, and this is another unique development in the NHL's long history. The current NHL Network analyst joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Tuesday to provide his thoughts on the 24-team Return To Play format, how he sees the NHL carrying out the NHL Draft Lottery, and more.

Here is some of what he had to say:


Lawton on the NHL's 24-team playoff format:

"I think it's a good idea. I mean, you've heard every side of the argument so far, and the fact of the matter is we didn't complete the regular season. You've got a chance to do something different, and I love that, personally. I love to see just an opportunity to try some things. Are we going to see a 24-team playoff in the future? No, I don't think so, but it's a very, very unique year. Everyone recognizes that. I like the direction they've gone in. I really do. I think 24 teams is going to be awesome, it's going to be absolutely tantalizing, and I can't wait for hockey to get started again."


Lawton on trying to bring back all 31 teams to finish the 2019-20 season:

"I don't think it would have been appropriate to bring every team back [like] the teams that are mathematically eliminated or pretty darn close. Unfortunately, Buffalo has fallen into this group. That would have been a real challenge... I feel this is the right call. [Los Angeles], Ottawa, Buffalo, these teams shouldn't have to return."


Lawton on the top-eight teams participating in an in-conference tournament during the play-in round:

"I think it's smart of them to play. The alternative would have been the Holy Grail, which generally is taking a bye. This year, with the amount of time the players have been off, no body wants a bye. You don't want to play a team that's been playing, so they came up with this round-robin format just really to keep those team fresh. Is it going to alter their seeding? Possibly. I find that more unlikely, but that's possible. But that's not the purpose of it. I think every one of those teams will tell you the purpose is for them to get a chance to have some live fire, and not have to come in ice cold and play a team that maybe just went through five games to advance to play them."


Lawton on teams not being able to get the home-ice advantage in the playoffs:

"Hockey players don't know 'go slow, take it easy.' I can tell fans this 100%, it's great to have the fans in the building. You love that excitement and energy, but the fact of the matter is you're concentrating so hard once play is on I don't think it's going to change anything in the way of how hard, how competitive players are. There's nothing like being at home for a playoff game, and you love that energy and you miss that, but the competitiveness will be through the roof."


Lawton on how the NHL Draft Lottery should work in 2020:

"I absolutely believe that if you're not in the playoffs, you should be the only team that does have a chance to select first overall. I'd like to see [the league] draw the line right there. Take these seven teams and give them a leg up. I know maybe some of the teams that were closer to almost being out of the playoffs or out of this 24-team playoff like a Chicago or a Montreal -- you name it -- they'd probably be disappointed by that, but I think they're getting an opportunity that should cost them something. They could win and go on and have an incredible run... If you give them that, I hope that they condense [the draft lottery] to just the teams that didn't get that opportunity and give them at least a percentage advantage, if not exclusiveness to end up with that first, second, and even third overall pick."


You can listen to the entire interview below:

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