NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2020

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

Result of the NHLPA executive board vote on proposed return-to-play format is expected today, a closer look at what the proposed format could look like, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


SPORTSNET: The National Hockey League Players’ Association executive board voted Thursday night the NHL’s proposed 24-team return-to-play tournament. The board is comprised of the 31 NHLPA player representatives. The result of the vote is expected by Friday evening.

The NHLPA executive board is voting on a 24-team return-to-play tournament format.

The top-four teams in each conference qualify for the 16-team playoffs, receiving a bye from the 16-team, best-of-five play-in series. They will, however, play a three-game round-robin against each other to determine their final seedings.

“In the Eastern Conference, the opening round will play out like this:

• 5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Montreal (winner plays four seed)
• 6. Carolina vs. 11. Rangers (winner plays three seed)
• 7. Islanders vs. 10. Florida (winner plays two seed)
• 8. Toronto vs. 9. Columbus (winner plays one seed)

And the Western Conference opening round will play out like this:

• 5. Edmonton vs. 12. Chicago (winner plays four seed)
• 6. Nashville vs. 11. Arizona (winner plays three seed)
• 7. Vancouver vs. 10. Minnesota (winner plays two seed)
• 8. Calgary vs. 9. Winnipeg (winner plays one seed)”

“Once the play-in tournament has concluded, the playoffs will be “bracketed” — similar to what is done in the NCAA tournament — meaning any of the top-four teams in the East or West could actually end up facing the lowest remaining seed following the play-in round. For example, the No. 4 seed could face No. 12 Montreal (in the event the Canadiens pulled off an upset over No. 5 Pittsburgh) while the No. 1 seed would be left with the winner of No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus.”

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the 24 clubs will be determined by points percentage. “The top four in the East are Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia; in the West, it’s St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas.”

TSN:  Bob McKenzie reports the “NHLPA conference call tonight was spirited if not raucous. While exec committee voting won’t be finalized until Friday, some believe Don Fehr may already have or will get the mandate to accept NHL RTP plan but not overwhelmingly so.”

“Which is to suggest that even if there are enough votes to pass, it may still be a tough call. Emotional issue, as one might expect. We should have more clarity in the next 24 hours.”

Frank Seravalli reports the when, where, and how for the return-to-play plan and the host cities hasn’t been determined yet. NHL general managers have privately expressed frustration with bracketing the playoffs, with some suggesting the rounds should be reseeded. The top-tier clubs are complaining about clubs like Montreal and Chicago being allowed to reach the playoffs.

Developing a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan and the logistics of staging these games in two or four host cities still has to be sorted out. The NHL and NHLPA remain hopeful of implementing Phase 2 of their return-to-play program, which would see players engage in small-group training at their respective NHL facilities, after June 1.

Darren Dreger reports the NHL is leaning toward two hub cities. The province of Alberta is putting forth a major push for Edmonton to be one of those cities. Las Vegas is thought to be the front-runner, though there’s concern over the heat there in July and August whereas the average summer temperatures in Edmonton are more comfortable.

McKenzie said several NHL GMs feel a 24-team play-in format is a made-for-TV event with Chicago and the New York Rangers being involved. There are also questions over how the outcome of this tournament could affect the draft lottery.

NBC SPORTS: Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson and Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal raised concerns about the players being possibly isolated from their families for weeks under the proposed format. Carlson felt a 24-team tournament sounded like a lot, while Staal spoke of the many hurdles the league faces in pulling this off. Nevertheless, both players understand the challenges and seem willing to work with the league.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ian Cole is fully supportive of whatever decision is reached to return to action. “To be honest with you, I like to keep it simple: Whatever gets us back and playing, I’m 100 percent for. Whether that’s 16 teams, 24 teams — 30 teams, 31 teams — whatever gets us back and playing I’m 100 percent on board with,” Cole said.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin dismisses concerns over how a 24-team tournament might hurt the integrity of the NHL playoffs. He cites the NHL’s long history of wild, sometimes unfair formats.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This proposed format won’t please everyone and the NHLPA executive board could come back with some recommendations to adjust it. A number of players will have legitimate concerns about ensuring their health and safety and the long separations from their families.

Nevertheless, I anticipate the PA reps will vote to approve it, with the league board of governors giving their blessing soon afterward. The league and the PA will then shift their focus toward ironing out timelines, approving hub cities, and addressing the daunting logistics in staging this tournament.

I understand the concerns regarding the fairness of the proposed tournament and the integrity of the playoffs. But if the league can pull this off, those concerns will be forgotten. Even those hockey fans taking to social media proclaiming they’ll never watch it will probably find themselves drawn toward it, especially if it involves their favorite team. 


THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports an NHL source indicates the league’s intention is “to agree on a slide with the NHL Players’ Association, which would uniformly extend all contracts through the end of the 2019-20 season.” That would also apply to minor-league players on two-way contracts. The league also hopes to do the same for coaches and other team employees on expiring contracts, but “(The) dynamic is different without collective representation.” 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, player contracts that would’ve expired on June 30 will be extended to the end of the proposed return-to-play format. That could be sometime in September. 

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman speculates we probably won’t see NHL training camps open before July. 

WINNIPEG SUN: Winnipeg’s pro sports teams can reopen their training facilities under strict physical distancing guidelines. 

PUCKPEDIA: Part three of their NHL player agents’ poll examines the best way to grow league revenue, whether there will be a lockout in 2022, and more. 


  1. And around and around it goes … where it stops? Only Covid-19 knows …

    • Lol! I understand the players worry about being away from their family’s that would be tough, as much as fans always boo bettman if he pulls this off he might be up for an extension!

      • He will get one regardless

    • You simply can’t please all of the people, all of the time.
      Contrarians live for moments like this.

      I just want to watch hockey, when everything is good and safe to go.

      • True that SOP. I totally get why this has taken so long and it continues to change.
        There are many stakeholders in this. Fans, league, players, families, advertisers, networks, governments/citizens of cities/provinces/states/countries, owners and more I am not mentioning.
        And the fact that the NHL is engaging all of them and open to making changes is a good thing. It is how good decisions are made and buy-in or acceptance is built. They are smart enough to have humility and not simply driving something down from the top.
        All of this while what we know about this pandemic changes as we gather more data and evidence.
        If they pull this off safely and give us something to enjoy while we act responsibly in our homes, cheers to them.

  2. Thanks as always, Lyle. I highly recommend this week’s 31 Thoughts by Elliotte Friedman, not just for the summary of the proposed playoff setup but also for some great anecdotes from all over the place.
    It’s funny how, no matter what playoff system is suggested, Toronto plays Boston early.
    Must be fate.

    • Bcleaffan, give Dubas a call…you may want to have a word with him first!

    • If that is so, and the Bruins win, I wonder if that will actually save Dubas’ head?

      I had thought that if the Leafs went out in the first or second round Dubas would be in trouble. Perhaps this format, being an abberation, will spare him the noose?

      • If it’s another early exit dubas will be on his last legs, after signing four forwards to half the cap and than the bad offseason trades in 2019, he really hasn’t done a very good job

  3. I think they need to re-evaluate their plan. I think it would be unfair for the teams that get the by play a team that has played game. Like athletes are in shape but game shape is something else. They all had a full off season so as great as it’s been to get healthy rosters for once these players all need games to get back otherwise it’s a bit unfair to them.

    They should “continue” the season by having a round robin of games that all teams participate in to determine the final 16 teams for the playoffs.

    • Ron Moore,

      With all respect, perhaps you should re-read the article.

      Specifically the part about the proposed warm up round robin for the bye teams.

    • I don’t think you understand how it is working?? While the leafs are playing the jackets Boston will be playing a round robin with tb,philly and Washington for the top 4 seeding! Sounds like a 2 out of 3 play in round so everyone will be playing atleast 2 games and the top seeds are guaranteed 3

      • I every intention of watching playoffs if they reappear. I think Spector is right in saying people would watch despite saying they have lost interest. I think the 24 team format is great but don’t really see the benefit of being a top seed team participating in a round robin to determine reseeding. What if Montreal beats Pittsburgh? Then #4 gets a 12th place team and Boston faces 8 or 9? I realize the point spread is negligible but why not play a round Robin to determine seeding to allow you to play as a low a seed as possible? That part seems strange. However, despite all this acknowledgment that i would watch i still think it should be canceled. It’s like the shootout it shouldn’t happen but I still watch.

      • I think it should be cancelled also but I’ll watch, the seeding is what it is if you want to win the cup you can’t lose whether it’s the first or fourth round

  4. Steve “It’s like the shootout it shouldn’t happen but I still watch.” Couldn’t agree more … I view that the same way I hated the DH in baseball. Took managing strategy right out of the game – bunts, sacrifices, when to take a pitcher out for a pinch-hitter, despite his rolling along trailing only, for example, 1-0 or 2-1. From that point on it seemed like American League managers sat around with their thumbs up their bums waiting for the 3-run homer.

  5. I have seen lots of nhl players voice concerns… all of which are valid… but only seen these concerns voiced by those players who have made big bucks. I’d be interested to see if any young 4 th line players are against playing.

  6. 600 doctors wrote letter to the President telling him to end the lockdown not hard to find it on internet it’s a good read. Basically says more people will die because of the lockdown than from Covid -19 by thousands I remember mentioning this weeks ago and was told I’m nuts. Suicide hot line calls up 600 percent and yesterday California Doctors said more people have died from suicide than Covid in California and their hospitals are empty and laying people off. Millions have no jobs and economy is destroyed but hey don’t worry Rays taxes are going up and all will be fine. I know you won’t believe this Bruins fan but read the letter it’s the truth. Time to open up our countries and get back to life and let’s look after our elderly as our leaders have failed miserably in our nursing homes. Go Bruins Go

    • I work in behavioral health and certainly what was already a serious issue (tenth leading cause of death in us) is worse. But suicide alone is not going to even rival the amount of deaths from covid. I’m for cautiously and safely opening back up but let’s use real arguments to justify it.

    • Obe, for the record the doctors in question were recruited by CNP Action, part of the Save Our Country Coalition, which is a an alliance of think tanks and PACS to re-elect the President. Also includes Freedom Works, Tea Party Patriots etc. The normal players and financial backers.
      It was formed in April 2020, and the plan to recruit the doctors was made on May 11. You can find a leaked recording of that meeting online as well. It was also confirmed by the Trump campaign’s own communication director.
      When asked about the conflict between this statement and the governments own experts – “Our job at the campaign is to reflect the President Trumps point of view”. Make up your own mind on that one.
      Nobody is saying don’t reopen period. Literally nobody. All I ever said was get the cases under control, build the capacity to test and trace and get PPE. Do it smartly and safely. Like what I have been saying recently about hosting the NHL playoffs here in Edmonton, AB, where I am proud to say we have done exactly that and are reopening many activities.
      What I also said is that the economy won’t recover until the root cause is dealt with. Which you are now seeing in places like Georgia and Florida where the business traffic has increased a little since opening, but not enough to move the needle significantly. People simply aren’t doing it.
      How else will you pay the debt without raising taxes?
      Cutting ain’t gonna do it.

  7. So Boston is going to play Washington for a couple games and then one team will have to go to a different city? How’s that going to work? 2 week quarantine means those legs won’t be fresh for their first round. What a logistics nightmare.

    • Not at all! Please re read how it works, no team will travel until the cup final

      • I don’t buy two cities. Vegas will be 45 degrees Celsius, hosting hockey games? Brutal. Edmonton has enough good hotels for 800+ players and staff?