NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 21, 2020

by | May 21, 2020 | News, NHL | 22 comments

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.


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.


Philadelphia Flyers NHLPA rep James van Riemsdyk (Photo via NHL Images).

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.


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.


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.


  1. Probably just me, but reading every day about the latest suggestions for finishing off the season leaves me with the impression that EVERY proposal has as many detractors as it does proponents and, no matter what the final decision turns out to be, there will be endless yapping about how such-and-such a team – or city – or country – got jobbed. On and on and on ad nauseam.

    Bettman is the commissioner – why doesn’t he act like one. accept that all this endless talk is going nowhere, that NO format will be above reproach, and so simply lay down the rules and say here’s the way it’s going to be and this is where it will be played out – governments permitting. Same with the bloody draft.

    • Biggest issue I see is that they will be LEFT BEHIND. Baseball is thinking towards starting July 1. Even good ole California now sees a path to play in empty stadiums in June. If MLB and NBA actually start playing in June / early July and NHL is still screwing around with “what shall we do”, then commercial dollars will be drawn to sports actually PLAYING. This isn’t life or death and yes no matter what format you pick someone will get slighted.
      Pick your poison and get on with it.

      • Exactly. Time to fish or cut bait … s&^t or get off the pot … choose your metaphor, the message is the same.

    • George if we go with no playoffs and the teams that made every effort to play for a stanley cup can’t then the draft should also be open. Meaning every team should have the same opportunity to pick 1st, 2nd ect.. If the regular season meant nothing in terms of the Stanley cup then it should mean nothing as per the draft. Teams traded and spent money to make there teams competitive this year and others were thinking about draft positions. If the playoffs/season is null and void then that should apply to all of hockey and all teams should be on even ground.

      • Interesting

      • Roger, that’s as good an opinion as any … but again, that’s my point. Whatever they adopt – including yours – there will be detractors and proponents and if they sit around endlessly considering ideas and countering with other options this will drag on and on and on. Bettman is the commissioner – make a decision on the season and draft and let’s get on with it. Some teams will be well or moderately satisfied – others not so much.

        As for us fans, what we think doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Oh, there’ll be the complaints and, of course, the usual “I’ll never go to or watch another game as long as I live” protests – but in the end the vast majority will be back. They know that and so does Bettman. So make two frikken decisions and get on with it.

        Where the draft is concerned, make two announcements – one based upon a completion of the season/playoffs and the other based upon a necessity to cancel the season/playoffs should governments put up conditions impossible to meet.

  2. I reiterate

    Draft before cup is not good at all😡

    Even with the recent talk of max move up of 4 spots….

    Then with the currently proposed 24 team playoff pool; there is a possibility (slim but still mathematically possible) of Habs winning cup AND drafting Drysdale 4th (assumes Stuhlze going ahead of Drysdale as some rankings have it)…. our friend Howard & others (Habs fans who posts here on Spectors) would be ecstatic with that outcome

    Add to that the NON excitement of draft without player trades 👎👎👎

    Re 24 teams ….

    I read posts over the last few days but did not post (work thankfully starting to pick up) and there was great discussions here. Really goid discourse. No two minds or rationales (here on this site) completely in synch.

    All points made were valid

    No matter what the decision …. there will be plenty of Dissenting opinions

    To me ; health and safety paramount. No ifs ands or buts. If they can do everything in their power to ensuring this priority with no distraction/impairment to the health and safety of whatever locales/hubs they plan to play in; then resumption to playoffs is amenable IMHO


    Very good pros and cons raised by all here

    I stick by my assertion that IF they are going to do playoffs; AND the only choices are 16 (normal rules) and 24…. 24 would be my “lesser of two evils”

    @ 24 the posted and printed media concerns seem to lie with Mon & Chi inclusion (being well out of contention at pause) and inclusion of Mon over Buff (who still had a H2H remaining that had Buff won in reg…. Buff @ 24th position

    @ 16…. 5 teams out that had at least one H2H game against a team in; and if those 5 teams had played that single game counter part (team that was in) and won in reg…. they’d be in and the other team out (e.g. Van beats Cgy in reg in single H2H… Van in Cgy out; same with FLA/Tor etc etc etc

    …. 10 teams directly affected at 16; 3 team concern @ 24…. lesser of two evils (again this assumes if decision is firm to award cup); to me …. 24

    As a fan I would like resumption ; but do not have great opposition to nixing the season

    Can anyone fill me in on what channel (and time) has the re-run of the ‘75 Siberian Tiddlywinks championship game? 🙏

    • STOP WRITING NOVELS! This is a blog.

      • Just skip the long parts, bud.
        There’s value in his words.

      • There certainly is Shoreorrpark … but Pengy, when you say “Draft before cup is not good at all …” – and although its an opinion shared by many – it’s what I’m trying to say above. What difference does it make what format they choose for the season and the daft? There will be detractors who will go on yapping about it endlessly.

        Bettman needs to cut to the chase and CHOOSE – the complainers will always complain. So what? It’s not as if they’re going to stop watching the game – or the draft – because it didn’t go their way. I still grumble about the way the Pens got Lemieux and then Crosby. Big deal. None among the NHL, the Penguins or their fans give a crap what I think.

      • I do George. I do.

      • Hi Old Goalie

        I AM a BLOG (Belligerent Longwinded Old Guy)

        Sorry for my verbose nature ; tough to post through the day often; so limited to spewing out my thoughts all at once🤓

        My BLOG above summary

        Safety/health first
        Canceling season won’t kill me
        Draft B4 SC please
        If a firm decision to go and choice ONLY 24 or 16…. 24 please as 16 has 10 teams that could easily go in/out in one extra game

        Pengy the BLOG

      • Hi George

        Ditto on Chrisms reply

        Agree … decision… whatever it will be …. will have dissension ; bemoaning ; and pushback… ‘’tis what ‘tis

        I stick with my personal view/opinion that draft B4 cup (if play does resume) is not a route that the NHL “should” take… the negatives (again IMHO) far outweigh the positives

  3. IMO the league is pimping itself if it goes 24 teams….using the unique circumstances to destroy the value of regular season games..and they are aware of it

    It is no accident that 24 teams just happen to include 2 large fan bases….

    Next season the same guys soiling the product this year will be shining it up ….

    • The best team will win just like EVERY other year will it not? I’m for cancelling if you can’t finish the regular season the season is already lost, and don’t bring up lockout years everyone knew the amount of games they were having before the season started. How ever many teams are in it the draft SHOULD be done after that is concluded! Just think the top team in the league according to the Toronto media have been bounced in the first round the last few years so upsets do happen right?

    • So trying to adapt and maximize your product in a global pandemic is pimping now. I know lots of small business owners right now who are really pimpin it right now

  4. I’d be interested to know the plan for possible player infection with the virus once games have started.
    Would one player testing positive end the tournament? Two? How many?
    Or will the teams soldier on to the championship final?
    Just how big a risk are the league and the players willing to take?

  5. The number of teams is completely irrelevant. All teams will be playing under the same rules. Columbus swept Tampa! End of story. If you are better you should win regardless of the rules. The league should be canceled completely. Safety is more important than sports.

    • The team that wins will have earned the stanley cup regardless of the amount if teams. There’s the regular season and then there’s the playoffs. 2 completely different seasons and styles of hockey. If by some miracle Montreal wins the cup it will be earned and I hate Montreal. I get that they should not be in the playoffs because of the regular season but it is what it is and the team that wins earned it by winning what will be one of the toughest playoffs in nhl history. The other teams can all get equal opportunities at the 1st overall at the draft. I agree the season should be canceled but that’s up to the players, owners and league not me. People need to relax and just accept the decision and enjoy any playoffs that we may have. Remember the players, owners and league decided to play and live with the consequences. Lifes to short so relax, take a deep breath and enjoy

  6. Queue the carnival music. The NHL is heading in the opposite direction of integrity with this joke letting in a bunch of teams that had zero chance had pause not occurred just for ratings and money. What a sham.

    • Fairest way to do it, teams like the leafs probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs the way they were heading down the stretch

    • And when the dust settles what will YOU have done about it? Do you seriously think either the NHL teams or Bettman will have lost – or lose – sleep over what we think in here?

      In your opinion it’ll be a sham. OK, fair enough. Plenty will agree with you. In my opinion, bottom line I could not possibly care less how they do it – just DO it. And I think some will agree with that. But what we think is immaterial and will have no bearing on the final approach taken – both season and draft.