NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 21, 2020
The NHL and NHLPA are working toward a 24-team conference-based format to resume the season, the latest on potential host cities, plus reaction from James van Riemsdyk, Blake Wheeler, Matt Duchene and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
LATEST ON THE NHL’S RETURN-TO-PLAY EFFORTS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports “multiple sources indicate the NHL and NHLPA are working on a 24-team conference-based playoff setup,” with discussions on the proposal perhaps taking place on Thursday.
The top-four seeds (based on points percentage in each conference (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West) would receive byes through the play-in process, but would participate in a three-game tournament. The play-in series would be a best-of-five format, while the rest of the playoffs would be best-of-seven.
The rest of the playoffs would be bracketed, meaning “in both conferences 5 vs. 12 (winner plays four seed), 6 vs. 11 (winner plays three seed), 7 vs. 10 (winner plays two seed) and 8 vs. 9 (winner plays one seed).”
Chris Johnston indicates the discussions between the league and the PA are about the format of the 24-team tournament. It doesn’t cover other issues such as COVID testing protocols, hub cities, and more. This format is expected to be discussed during Thursday’s schedule NHLPA executive board call.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman points out this remains in the discussion stage and nothing is set in stone. Nevertheless, momentum seems to be building toward a 24-team tournament format. The idea of resuming the regular-season schedule with all 31 teams is no longer an option, taking the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres out of the equation.
SEVERAL PLAYERS WEIGH IN ON POSSIBLE 24-TEAM FORMAT
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers NHLPA representative James van Riemsdyk said several different formats are under discussion. He pointed out the difficulty of determining the leading format because of how quickly things can change.
THE SCORE: During an interview with TSN’s Darren Dreger, Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler cautions a 24-team format could give bubble teams a competitive advantage. “I think the hard thing would be to have the bubble teams play a play-in and all of the sudden now Boston or St. Louis or Colorado who’ve been at the top of the standings all year, they’re sitting there cold and have to play a team that’s already played a three-to-five game series and they’re coming in hot,” said Wheeler.
NBC SPORTS: Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene prefers preserving the integrity of the game by returning to play with a 16-team, best-of-seven playoff format. “You don’t want to have a COVID Cup,” he said. “I’m worried that if we force this thing and try and it’s a little gimmicky or if it’s not quite right, whoever wins the Cup is gonna have people trying to take it away from them their whole lives and they don’t deserve that,” he said. “I feel very passionately about this part of things.”
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie has no problem with a 20- or 24-team format. “It’s not ideal, but in a time like this, how could anything be super-traditional?” said Barrie. “The integrity will be there because it’s still going to be the best players in the world playing against each other for the goal of winning the Stanley Cup. We all have to adapt and try to realize it’s not going to be perfect classic NHL playoffs. For the situation we’re in, for a year, I think that’s fine.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no perfect format to please everyone, but the 24-team tournament could be the best option. As Barrie pointed out, this is a unique situation. If the league can return and fully ensure the health and safety of everyone involved, most fans probably won’t care about the format once the puck drops. The fact the PA is heavily involved in these discussions suggests a majority of their membership wants to return and complete the season.
THE LATEST ON POTENTIAL HOST CITIES
RDS: Pierre LeBrun assumes the NBA leaning toward Orlando as a host city could make Las Vegas’ candidacy as a neutral-site NHL host city more interesting. Vegas is reportedly low on the NBA’s list. Ryan Rishaug reports conversations are taking place so that a Canadian market can also be a host city.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Robert Tychowski reports the Oilers believe they’re among the leading contenders in the bidding for an NHL host city. “Edmonton’s Ice District and the city’s overall response to COVID-19 should make it an automatic choice to host one of the 12-team playoff groups”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some suggest if Vegas becomes a host city, the other will be located in the East, perhaps taking Canadian cities out of the running. However, the lower cost of a Canadian host city could be enticing for the league.
IN OTHER NEWS…
WGR 550: TSN’s Darren Dreger believes the best-case scenario for Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play schedule could be the end of May or early June. Under that phase, the players return to their NHL cities and allow small-group workouts following a two-week self-isolation period.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly indicated the NHL is close to deciding on when to stage the 2020 NHL Draft and the draft lottery. “This week or next week is probably fair,” Daly wrote. “I can’t tell you there’s a precise timetable because there are other things involved.” The league is currently focused on working with the PA on a format for resuming the season.
Garrioch speculates the league could hold the draft lottery and the draft a couple of months apart. Over the weekend, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk suggested the league might hold the lottery in June and the draft later in the summer.
PUCKPEDIA: Part II of their player agent poll examined which general managers they prefer to deal with, the worst current contract from a team perspective, and the most team-friendly contract.