Yeah, I said it, playoffs.
The NHL was nearing completion of it’s 2019-2020 regular season with most teams having played 68-70 games when the pause was enacted. When the league is able to resume, it is uncertain whether or not they will actually complete the final regular season games or scratch that and start the playoffs.
With nothing else to write about, like games, and with virtually no access to players at this point, media types are trying to figure out how the rest of the season and post-season will turn out.
At ESPN, the various NHL types have their own ideas as to what the NHL should do. Some think teams should all play up to the 71 game mark. Others think that as the standings are now teams should be ranked by win percentage or the 1-8 as they are in each conference. Should there be a play in for some teams? Should the playoffs be expanded beyond 8 teams?
There’s an idea from Igor Eronko about an expanded field of 24 teams, with a round of teams vying to get in and some teams getting early byes because they were really good in the regular season so far. Ugh, so much teams.
Then there’s a player-devised schedule to finish the season and the playoffs along with a radical change to the 2020 league year.
Per @TSN_Sports @PierreVLeBrun @frank_seravalli @DarrenDreger the NHL players and some of the Board of Governors are in favor of this plan to some extent. Very interesting. Situation is obviously very fluid. pic.twitter.com/qZJJbcYcTS
— Jason Myrtetus (@jasonmyrt) March 17, 2020
According to Frank Seravalli, it makes sense for players who are mindful that they need to be in game shape to play well and during this time of social distancing and closure of team facilities, players don’t have access to everything they need to be ready.
But the players’ plan seems to check a lot of boxes.
1) This plan allows players and teams time to properly prepare, taking stress off athletes who feel the pull to continue to train at a time that it is not safe to congregate at the rink. It also allows for a defined “off-season” which would be March through June.
2) Waiting would minimize the possibility of the NHL returning in fits and starts – for instance, if the NHL attempted to return in May or June and then a player or team staff member tested positive for COVID-19 during that process.
3) A July return would allow the NHL to properly market hockey’s return and maximize revenue to be recouped, since hockey could likely then be played in full arenas. NHL players aren’t keen on the idea of being awarded the Stanley Cup in an empty rink. But this would also give players and teams two runs at Lord Stanley inside 10 months.
4) Perhaps most significantly, this schedule would seem to preserve the integrity of the Stanley Cup. That is what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned in an interview on TSN 1050 Radio on Monday.
Since NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is leaving nothing off the table, this could be a system that works without disrupting too much, gives players time off, and finishes up the current season. It would be interesting to see how it affects scheduling for the next one should the season start in November.
Expect a lot of back-to-backs in 2020-2021.