NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 20, 2020

The Stars defeat the Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, plus highlights from Commissioner Bettman’s state-of-the-league press conference in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Anton Khudobin made 35 save (including 22 in the third period) as the Dallas Stars defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Jamie Oleksiak scored what proved to be the winning goal in the second period. Joel Hanley, Joel Kiviranta and Jason Dickinson also tallied for the Stars, while Yanni Gourde had the lone Lightning goal. Game 2 is Monday at 8 pm ET. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars benefited from five days off between series compared to just two for the Lightning. It was obvious through the first two periods as the Stars controlled much of the play. 

The Bolts dominated the third period but Khudobin was the difference. All of Dallas’ defensemen except for Andrej Sekera picked up a point in this game, with Oleksiak and Hanley scoring two of the Stars’ four goals. 

The fate of the 2021-22 season was the dominant theme in NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual state-of-the-league press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. 

While the league targeted Dec. 1 as a possible start date, Bettman indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if that date moved to late December or January. No firm timetable has been established. 

The league is still planning to stage a full 82-games schedule and four-round best-of-seven playoff format. “How and when we do that is something that we don’t all have enough information to make any decisions, and anything would be just sheer speculation,” said Bettman. 

Bettman also said it was conceivable next season begins without fans in the arenas but transitions to some fans in the buildings as the season progresses. However, he added that was speculation at this point. Bettman noted fan attendance accounts for 50 percent of league revenues. He remains confident all 31 teams will weather the financial stress. 

The commissioner said he’d prefer to stay out of staging games next summer if at all possible. “Our fans typically like watching us through the fall, winter, and into the spring, and it’s always been a goal to be done by the end of June,” he said. 

Bettman indicates the league is considering all possibilities for staging next season. He said it’s premature to draw conclusions because so much depends upon government and travel restrictions between Canada and the United States. 

If the 2021 Winter Classic in Minneapolis on Jan. 1 has to be postponed, the league will will make “suitable, appropriate arrangement” to make it up to Minnesota Wild fans. 

This year’s expanded playoff format of 24 teams will not be continued. 

Bettman said the Seattle Kraken’s entry into the league in 2021-22 won’t be delayed. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL intends on a full 82-game schedule and its usual playoff format next season, I don’t see how the league can avoid staging at least part of the playoffs next summer if the season begins sometime in January. Even an early December start would be pushing it. The only way of avoiding that is shortening the season, but the league’s broadcasting contracts could contain penalties for playing fewer games than scheduled. 

Lots of options are likely on the table for how the league returns next season. There could be a lot of regional games to reduce long-distance travel in the United States, or the Canadian teams could play against themselves until such time as restrictions ease at the US-Canadian border. 

It’s very important to league revenue to get fans back in the arenas in the safest way possible. As Bettman suggested, it could be a gradual transition where a limited number of fans are allowed in but are seated to ensure they are socially distanced. 

I believe the league will attempt to restage the Winter Classic in Minneapolis for 2022 if they have to postpone this season’s, provide that location hasn’t already been determined. 

Bettman isn’t going to acknowledge if any of the league’s 31 franchises are struggling during this pandemic. Hopefully, they can all make it through. The longer this pandemic drags on and affects league revenue, the more concern will grow.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 16, 2020

Sabres fire GM Jason Botterill, league commissioner Gary Bettman talks about the return-to-play plan, plus the latest on Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak, Braden Holtby, Josh Anderson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

**UPDATE** 

The Buffalo Sabres have relieved Jason Botterill of his duties as general manager. They’ve named Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams as Botterill’s replacement. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news broke earlier this morning. I hope to have more about this in tomorrow’s update. It was only three weeks ago that Botterill received the backing of Sabres ownership for another season. It’ll be interesting to find out what brought about this sudden change of heart, as well as what it could mean for the coaching and scouting staffs.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes the league’s return-to-play plan will maintain the integrity of the playoffs without being too gimmicky.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

“I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we’re going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players,” said Bettman.

The NHL intends to return later this summer with a 24-team tournament involving a round-robin for the top eight teams and a qualifying round for the other 16.

Bettman indicated the league has worked closely with the NHL Players’ Association since games were paused in mid-March. The two sides continue to negotiate key details, including playing under a quarantine bubble and the location of the two host cities for the tournament.

The commissioner also said the league intends to test every player and member of each team’s 50-person traveling party daily for COVID-19. A player testing positive will be isolated and contact tracing will monitor everyone in close proximity of that player. Bettman said the league has been told an isolated case or two won’t affect their plans to go forward.

Bettman also said the league is in discussions with the Canadian government regarding easing restrictions for the country’s 14-day quarantine period for visitors.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports Bettman admitted 56 percent of the league’s players remain outside of their respective NHL cities, with 17 percent of them still in Europe. So we’ve got a lot of people to move around and we have to get people back from outside of North America.” 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The round-robin and qualifying rounds are a bit gimmicky, but necessary given this unusual situation. Once the playoffs begin, it’s the usual four-round, best-of-seven tournament.

The discussions with the Canadian government will affect the location of one of the two host cities. It’s believed the league wants one in Canada, but that won’t be possible if the government maintains its strict border protocols. That will also affect training camps for the six Canadian teams (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal) participating in the tournament. There’s already talk that some of them could hold training camps in the United States.

Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan involves training camps opening on July 10. The league has a limited time to get their players back to their respective NHL cities.

SPORTSNET: Hockey analyst and former NHLer Kevin Bieksa said several players he’s spoken to remain skeptical of the return-to-play plan. He said they don’t have their equipment and still have skated.

Bieksa added there remains several issues to be sorted out. Not only with the safety measures and protocol and everything but I don’t even know if it’s been discussed with the (NHLPA) and the league how they’re going to divide HRR (hockey-related revenue).”

Some critics have dismissed the proposed tournament as the NHL putting the players at risk solely for the sake of profit. What the league is doing is attempting to recoup roughly half of its $1.1 billion in lost revenue from pausing the schedule. This depends, however, on the willing participation of the players.

With the salary cap tied to hockey-related revenue, the majority of players (based on the 29-2 vote by NHLPA player reps approving the return-to-play plan) are agreeable to this tournament. They aren’t being forced into this. If a majority aren’t confident their health and safety can be assured, they have the power to shut this down at any time.

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: cites a report in Sports Business Journal claiming the NHL is halting all negotiations for its next television contract until the end of 2020.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane doesn’t believe whoever wins the 2020 Stanley Cup should have an asterisk beside their name.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are no asterisks beside the NHL teams that won the Stanley Cup during the Second World War when some of the league’s best players were serving overseas. There’s no asterisk beside the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils or 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Cup during lockout-shortened seasons. There shouldn’t be, and won’t be, an asterisk beside the potential 2020 Cup champion.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak is more upset about missing the 100-point plateau than the 50-goal mark. With 48 goals and 95 points in 70 games, Pastrnak was on pace for his first 50-goal, 100-point campaign when the schedule was paused.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said the starting goaltender role is Braden Holtby’s to lose in the playoff tournament. “Braden Holtby’s body of work in playoff games speaks for itself and how he definitely helped our team to win our first-ever Stanley Cup and was a huge, huge part of that,” Reirden said.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson will remain sidelined by shoulder surgery until after September.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Ryan Reaves to a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension. The 33-year-old winger is completing a two-year, $5.5-million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers suggest Reaves’ accepting less money to re-sign with the Golden Knights could be a harbinger of what many of this year’s unrestricted free agents could face when the season is over. However, he likely would’ve had to accept a similar deal from the Golden Knights even without the possibility of a flat salary cap for next season. Before re-signing Reaves, the Golden Knights had over $73 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21.

SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars defenseman Roman Polak signed a three-year contract with Czech club HC Vitkovice. He’s still under contract with the Stars for this season but told a Czech paper he might not return if the NHL stages its playoff tournament. Stars general manager Jim Nill said the team can’t make a player return against their wishes. If anyone wants to stay home, that is their decision. His contract expires at the end of this season, so no issues there.”

SPORTSNET: The American Hockey League has formed a return-to-play task force to prepare for its 2020-21 season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

The latest on the hub cities bids, Red Wings confirm Jeff Blashill will return as head coach, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Max Domi, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WILL A CANADIAN CITY BECOME AN NHL HUB?

TSN: Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 under consideration to serve as the two host cities for the NHL’s 24-team tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup champion. However, they will be out of the running if the Canadian government doesn’t exempt NHL players from its 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for non-essential travelers crossing the Canadian border. The league indicated it will decide on the two host cities in another three or four weeks.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has sent a letter to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau encouraging the federal government to deem professional athletes and training staff as essential workers. BC Premier John Horgan also hopes Vancouver will become a hub city but said his province’s 14-day self-quarantine rule will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan isn’t calling on the local or provincial governments to push for Toronto as a host city. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sports, and tourism, is willing to make the case with the federal government.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The U.S. government recently signed legislation deeming pro athletes essential workers, lifting restrictions on NHL players from other countries traveling to work into the United States. If the Canadian government doesn’t follow suit, both hub cities will be in the U.S.

Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus are believed among the leading candidates, but they could have competition from Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is allowing sports teams in his state to return to action, and the Penguins have submitted a bid to become an NHL host. 

LATEST ON THE NHL RETURN TO PLAY FORMAT

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the expanded 24-team playoff format is a one-off. “I think our regular season is incredible. Our competitive balance is extraordinary. Our playoffs are the best in sports. What we have is terrific. This is dealing with a unique situation. This, in my view, is a one-time thing.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered if the league would considering expanding future playoffs if the 24-team format proves popular with fans. While Bettman is shooting down that possibility, one can’t help but wonder if the expansion of the league to 32 teams might see some within the league push for a 20-team format. 

ESPN.COM: Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association, said the PA will defer to the proper health authorities if a player tests positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. He expects management will pick up the costs of testing players and considers it unlikely a player will be suspended or have their contract terminated for testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Fehr also said the PA continues to negotiate with the league regarding players with underlying medical conditions, living in hub cities, separation from families, and critical dates calendar, but believes the two sides will find resolutions to those issues. He wouldn’t say how much the remaining decisions might be tied to a new collective bargaining agreement. Asked if the relationship between the league and the PA has been collaborative, Fehr declined to “put any adjectives” on it, suggesting people would interpret it in different ways.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Fehr’s comments, the two sides are working together to come up with an acceptable return-to-play plan. There’s been plenty of reports since the summer of 2018 over the appearance of an improved negotiating relationship regarding a new CBA. Nevertheless, time will tell if this means labor peace is on the horizon.

THE SCORE: listed six deals that could be in limbo involving conditional draft picks. Among them, Toronto’s conditional first-round pick sent to Carolina last June in the Patrick Marleau trade, the two picks Arizona sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade, and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick sent to Tampa Bay for J.T. Miller that was later sent to New Jersey to acquire Blake Coleman.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Jeff Blashill will return as head coach next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings are in the midst of a major rebuild. Blashill couldn’t be faulted for the lack of skilled depth throughout the roster this season.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya welcomed their second son Ilya on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Ovechkins.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said the team and the league would never put Max Domi in a situation that would expose him to COVID-19. Domi is diabetic and more susceptible to contracting the virus. Bergevin said Domi won’t play if the medical staff says he can’t play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Safe to say that will apply to all NHL players with underlying medical conditions.

Bergevin also said Jonathan Drouin is cleared to play, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi might not be fully recovered from his spleen injury to take part in the qualifying round.

AMNY.COM: New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech has been cleared to play. He’d been sidelined since January with an Achilles injury. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk will also be ready to participate in the qualifying round.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad underwent season-ending surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disc

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut is reportedly considering signing a contract with a KHL team. However, this could be a negotiating ploy on his part. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

SPORTSNET: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy are among the 11 new inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. O’Ree has been involved in many diversity initiatives at all levels of hockey, while Kennedy has spent years advocating to protect vulnerable athletes and victims of sexual abuse.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 27, 2020

Highlights of the league’s return-to-play plan, the updated draft lottery procedure, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES RETURN-TO-PLAY PLAN

NHL.COM: The NHL yesterday formally announced its’ return-to-play plan with a 24-team tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup champion. the format was approved by a 29-2 vote by the NHL Players’ Association executive board on Friday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

The tournament will open with a 16-team, best-of-five play-in round, while the top-four teams in each conference will compete in a three-game round-robin to determine their seeding for the playoffs. The 12 qualifying teams in each conference were determined by points percentage.

These rounds will be played at two hub cities, one for each conference. The candidates for those cities include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver.

League commissioner Gary Bettman said the final selection of the hub cities and when play can begin depends on COVID-19 conditions, testing ability, and government regulations. For example, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver would be ruled out as hub cities if the Canadian government maintains its 14-day self-quarantine for non-essential border travel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports Las Vegas is believed to be a “near lock” as one of the hub cities. NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger reported the U.S. Acting Director of Homeland Security has signed an order indicating professional athletes are considered essential workers. According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, however, the Canadian government has yet to determine if it’ll follow suit.

Bettman said it’s not required to have Eastern Conference clubs play in an Eastern hub or Western Conference teams to play in a Western hub. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated the league might not allow a team to play in its own city to avoid the appearance of competitive advantage.

Training camps could open in mid-July as part of Phase 3 return-to-play plan. Bettman estimated the games could begin sometime this summer and carry on into early autumn. Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in their traveling parties and will strictly limit the number of support staff.

Bettman stressed the health and safety of the players, coaches, essential support staff, and communities remain the priority.

SPORTSNET: Bettman said the 2019-20 regular season is considered to be over for purposes of record-keeping and awards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means the Boston Bruins are the winners of the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy. Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl has won the Art Ross Trophy (becoming the first German-born player to do so), while Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Boston’s David Pastrnak will share the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with the most goals this season (48).

He also indicated it hasn’t been decided if the winners of the qualifying round will be re-seeded for the playoff rounds, or if it will follow a bracket-style format. The qualifying round would be as follows:

Eastern Conference (standings seeding in brackets)

(5)Pittsburgh vs Montreal (12)

(6 )Carolina vs NY Rangers (11)

(7)NY Islanders vs Florida Panthers (10)

(8)Toronto vs Columbus (9)

Western Conference

(5)Edmonton vs Chicago (12)

(6)Nashville vs Arizona (11)

(7)Vancouver vs Minnesota (10)

(8)Calgary vs Winnipeg (9)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league’s formal announcement of the 24-team tournament generated plenty of buzz among hockey fans. While this is a step toward returning to action, plenty of potential obstacles must be overcome before this tournament takes place. As TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted, the league and the PA continue to negotiate about the location of the hub cities, testing, protocols, etc.

Responding to questions from fans on Sportsnet, Bettman suggested the start of the 2020-21 season could be pushed ahead to November or December.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell reports this plan will cost the league tens of millions of dollars and involve 30,000 COVID-19 tests. Bettman indicated the league’s medical advisors said that by the time they’re doing that testing over the summer, it will be a relatively insignificant number compared to the tests that will be available.

The league stated a single positive test or several isolated positives during tournament won’t shut things down, but weren’t as optimistic in the event of a team suffering a COVID-19 outbreak.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One or two players with positive tests can be isolated, but I’m assuming that means their teammates would have to go into self-quarantine. If not, there’s a real risk of the virus spreading quickly among their teammates and to other clubs they’ve faced in the tournament.

THE ATHLETIC‘s Michael Russo reported via Twitter that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league’s position remains no contracts can be signed for 2019-20. However, the issues remain to be resolved with the NHLPA.

NHL DRAFT LOTTERY PROTOCOL REVEALED

NHL.COM: The league also announced the protocol for the 2020 NHL Draft, with the first phase slated for June 26. That phase will consist of three drawings and include the seven teams (Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres) that didn’t qualify for the 24-team playoff tournament, plus eight placeholder spots for the eight clubs that fail to advance in the tournament’s play-in round. The lottery odds for those clubs were determined by their points percentage in the final standings

Detroit Red Wings — (.275) 18.5 percent chance for No. 1 pick

Ottawa Senators — (.437) 13.5 percent

Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks, .450) — 11.5 percent

Los Angeles Kings — (.457) 9.5 percent

Anaheim Ducks — (.472) 8.5 percent

New Jersey Devils — (.493) 7.5 percent

Buffalo Sabres — (.493) 6.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team A — 6.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team B — 5.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team C — 3.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team D — 3.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team E — 2.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team F — 2.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team G — 1.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team H — 1.0 percent

After the first drawing, the odds for the remaining teams “will increase on a proportionate basis for the second drawing, and again for the third drawing, based on which team wins the second drawing.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy provides a detailed breakdown of how the draft lottery will unfold through each phase to determine the final placements. He noted this format will eliminate the possibility of the Stanley Cup champion also winning the draft lottery.

The Red Wings still have the best odds of winning the lottery, but there’s a real possibility the Senators, holding the second and third overall picks, could also win it. A club eliminated from the play-in round could also have a chance (albeit slim) of winning the lottery.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Depending on the outcome of the play-in round, determining those placeholders spots can get complicated. Kennedy’s breakdown provides a clearer picture.

IN OTHER NEWS…

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula announced Jason Botterill will remain general manager for 2020-21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather curious timing by Pegula, given all the news coming down from the league yesterday. Coincidence? You make the call!

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Golden Knights will unveil the new name and logo of its AHL affiliate on Thursday. Earlier this season, they purchase the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage with the intent of moving it to Henderson, Nevada.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 19, 2020

NHL looking at 8-9 locations as potential neutral-site hubs, plus the latest on Mikko Lehtonen and Guy Lafleur in today’s morning coffee headlines,

NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL is looking at “probably eight or nine different places” that can accommodate “a dozen or so teams in one location” as it continues to examine options to re-open the season. He also indicated there’s no fixed timetable yet for returning to action.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The latter comment may have been aimed at the players. Cory Schneider, the New Jersey Devils’ NHLPA rep, said the players are wondering if there’s a drop-dead deadline for returning to play. The longer it takes to restart the season, the further the start of next season gets pushed ahead. 

“We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty,” said Bettman. He also indicated border and quarantine issues must also be resolved before the players return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver have been mentioned as possible hosts. Having one of those hub locations in Canada would be more affordable for the league because of the lower value of the Canadian dollar. However, that depends upon whether there will be quarantine exemptions for NHL players. Anyone currently traveling to Canada must undergo a 14-day quarantine period. 

Bettman stressed the need to ensure an abundance of testing for all involved in NHL games.”(We) certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.” Good game conditions must also be in place for the players. Everything the league does will be determined by medical and government authorities.

The commissioner said players and fans want the NHL to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup, even if it means playing through the summer and delaying the start of next season. The league remains committed to staging a full 82-games schedule for 2020-21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the league returns in early-July with a 24-team playoff format, the Stanley Cup could be awarded by mid-September. The 2020 NHL Draft would be staged soon afterward (provided it isn’t held in June) with the freeze on player trades lifted, followed by the start of the 2020 free-agent period. Training camp could open in November and the regular season begin in early-December. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Ken Campbell took to Twitter yesterday reporting almost nothing of substance came out of yesterday’s NHL Board of Governors’ meeting. “The league is still considering a host of options and will not commit to any one of them until absolutely necessary. Those close to the situation maintain the goalposts are still constantly moving.”

SPORTSNET: Newly-signed Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mikko Lehtonen was named the KHL’s top rearguard for 2019-20. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs could have a blueline star on their hands if Lehtonen adapts well to the NHL game. 

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur is healthy enough to renew his helicopter pilot’s license after undergoing open-heart surgery and cancer surgery since last fall.  “They have to send all the doctors’ papers to Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration because I also had a US license. They will give me permission to take my medical exam, which I need to do to get my license. I spoke to my doctor and he said it was okay,” said Lafleur.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Glad to hear Lafleur has fully recovered and ready to return to the skies. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2020

Potential progress being made toward a 24-team playoff format, Eugene Melnyk hopes the 2020 draft will be held in June and the latest on Ryan Miller in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL-NHLPA PROGRESSING TOWARD 24-TEAM FORMAT

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports sources claimed the NHL-NHLPA Return to Play committee made progress over the weekend toward a 24-team playoff format if the league resumes action this summer. He cautions more work needs to be done and it’s difficult to determine if a decision will be reached this week. Discussions are expected to continue in the coming days. LeBrun also reports the NHL Board of Governors will have a conference call slated for 3 pm ET today.

LeBrun indicated the potential format wouldn’t jump straight into playoff action, but would instead see some games leading up to the postseason. Several NHL players aren’t on board with this concept but it appears more of them would support that format. The committee also has to determine the timeline for when the self-isolation period is lifted to enable players to return to NHL facilities for small group workouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Washington Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas could be among the players against this idea. He reportedly believes the NHL should simply cancel the season. Gudas isn’t on the Return to Play committee, but I daresay his concerns are shared by some of his peers. He’ll get an opportunity to express his views to his NHLPA player rep, who’ll cast a vote on his teammates’ behalf on whether to resume the season. 

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is the latest team owner to state his belief the league will return to action soon. However, this proposed return-to-play plan is drawing criticism from several pundits. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox dismisses the notion of summertime hockey, suggesting the league is running out of time to reach a decision. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson doesn’t see the sense of a 24-team playoff, though The Hockey New’s Ken Campbell points out the league can recoup more of its lost revenue with that format.

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (Photo via NHL.com).

Addressing the logistics of a 24-team format in four hub cities with many players cut off from their families while undergoing regular COVID-19 testing will be challenging. Gudas, Cox, and Matheson raise valid points that are likely shared by many hockey fans.

The NHL might not be able to pull this off. Nevertheless, they’re going to try. We’ll find out soon enough if they can do it. 

LATEST ON THE 2020 NHL DRAFT

LeBrun also believes the 2020 NHL Draft will also be a topic of discussion among the Board of Governors today. He feels there’s been too much opposition to staging the draft before resuming the season. However, it doesn’t require official approval from the governors. The final decision rests with Commissioner Gary Bettman.

SPORTSNET: Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk hopes the league stages the draft lottery and the draft next month. “I just hope that we can have some events happen in June to keep people interested. And if that’s just a draft lottery, that would be great. If it’s a draft as a draft lottery that’s even better,” Melnyk said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Melnyk has good reason for wanting the lottery and the draft to be held next month. The Senators have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft, including two that would be second and third overall based on the current standings. That third-overall pick belonged to the San Jose Sharks.

Under the league’s proposed one-time change to this year’s draft lottery, the Senators would drop no lower than one place if a low-seeded club other than themselves or the Detroit Red Wings win the lottery. If they or the Sharks win, they’ll have the first and third overall selections.

The Senators wouldn’t be part of the proposed 24-team playoff format. Holding the lottery and the draft next month would give their fans something to get excited about for this summer and looking ahead to next season. 

THE SCORE: Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller hopes to keep playing hockey next season, but acknowledged this pandemic could also force his retirement. “I mean the desire is there, but there’s going to be a lot of factors. First of all, we’re all going to have to address this new normal. What that means for sports and life – and wrapped up in that is family and how family is going to need to be taken care of during this time,” Miller said. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Where Miller is at this stage in his NHL career will also be a determining factor. The 39-year-old goalie is already in the twilight of his career. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he can’t sign with a California-based club, he could be forced to hang up his pads.