NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 24, 2020
What next following the NHLPA’s approval of a proposed 24-team return-to-play tournament? Check out the latest in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the ball is back in the NHL’s court now that the NHLPA voted to approve a 24-team return-to-play tournament. The league is going through its internal process. If it goes smoothly with no pushback from the teams, the league could make an official announcement on Tuesday.
LeBrun indicates there are two open issues. One is the players would like to see teams re-seeded following each round instead of going bracket-style. The other is whether the opening round of the 16-team playoffs will be a best-of-five or best-of-seven.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The U.S. Memorial Day weekend is the reason why the announcement could be made on Tuesday. At least we know we won’t have to wait too long. There’s now a framework in place for a return to play at some point this summer. They’ll have plenty of time to sort out those issues.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Robert Tychkowski wonders if the 24-team format will serve hockey fans well in the long run. As much as they love the game, they might not be as inclined to watch it in the summer. Teams that are eliminated from the play-in round might not return to action again until December.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: These are unusual times. Fans could tune in if there aren’t many live sports on television or not as many outdoor activities to enjoy.
THE ATHLETIC: Tampa Bay Lightning NHLPA rep Alex Killorn explained to Joe Smith why his club was one of only two to vote against the proposed 24-team tournament. The Carolina Hurricanes were the other.
Killorn indicated he and his teammates didn’t believe it was fair that certain clubs that probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs would now have an opportunity to do so in a best-of-five play-in. They also believed teams that would receive a bye from the play-in wouldn’t be as well prepared for the playoff rounds.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those are fair criticisms from the Lightning. Killorn acknowledged he and his teammates understand not everyone would be pleased with the proposed format. They also remain keen to return to action.
The bye clubs will get some playing time with that round-robin, but it won’t have the same intensity as the play-in series. Speaking of which…
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox wonders about the intensity of the three-game round-robin involving the top-four seeds in each conference. “Not only are these not do-or-die contests, but “winning” the top seed doesn’t guarantee the easiest Round 1 opponent.”
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders what’s in store for the seven clubs that aren’t part of the tournament, especially in the draft lottery. The league still hasn’t announced its plan for the 2020 draft, which could end up being held after the tournament following pushback from general managers. He feels those seven clubs should be guaranteed the top-seven picks, with each having a shot at winning the draft lottery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league could still surprise us by staging the draft lottery and the draft next month. Like most observers, however, I think they’ll wait until after the tournament to hold the draft. The draft lottery could still be held before the tournament, but the league will have to come up with a reasonable system.
Brooks also cites sources saying the NHL won’t select a Canadian city as one of its tournament hubs unless the Canadian government grants the league exemption to its 14-day quarantine requirement for crossing its borders.
THE SCORE: Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb reports Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf “signed an order Friday exempting foreign-born professional athletes from being denied entry into the country.”