There are some hangups on the 24-team playoff format, as the players and general managers realize a previously non-playoff team like Montreal could end the Pittsburgh Penguins season in two games. All of that work to come back, the trade deadline acquisitions, and the hope gone in just two games. It sounds like the reality of the super-expanded tournament format is hitting home as the NHL and NHLPA, through the return to play committee figure out how best to restart the NHL season.
11:09 a.m.: According to former Sportsnet and Hockey Tonight stalwart John Shannon, the NHL has investigated allowing some fans into arenas for the NHL return this summer or next fall. However, Shannon says they calculated most arenas could hold only 2000-2500 fans, which he said is a dealbreaker.
The NHL and teams have done social distancing models for people in seats…most arenas, based on people being 6 feet apart in every direction…would only be able to host 2000 to 2500 fans at a game. A bit of a non-starter.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) May 20, 2020
An interesting wrinkle popped up Tuesday night. A prominent player agent who spoke with Boston Hockey Now expressed some concern players would approve the first proposal. “My gut says (the NHL return happens), but it won’t be as easy as ‘Here’s the proposal’ and they automatically sign off on it.” Read the full story (Boston Hockey Now)
The NHL and NHLPA negotiations are discussing the potential unfairness of the 24-team playoff format. Darren Dreger’s language — and perhaps I’m parsing it too much — seems to indicate the sides are considering a weighted play-in series. Dreger said there has been a lot of discussion on the matter.
“(If you’re a GM of a better team), you wouldn’t want equal footing across the 24-team format. So part of what has been a daunting task with the return-to-play committee, the PA and the NHL is trying to determine appropriate value from where a club was sitting in regular-season play and then transferring that into the field of 24.” (The TSN Insiders hit on several topics including the unofficial death of the June draft, but no one can officially declare the idea gone. (TSN Insiders)
Creative Solution: Could the sides agree to give the third-place teams, which earned a guaranteed playoff spot by finishing in the top three of their division, a game in hand? Perhaps start the best of five series, 1-0. That’s my own suggestion, so don’t confuse it as an official talking point. If a team that earned a playoff spot couldn’t win two of five games against a 12th seed, then no one would shed a tear.
The city of Ottawa will open an ice rink this week. NHL and OHL players will have access to the private Minto Rink, according to reporter Ken Warren. The rink, of course, will have strict social distancing policies in place and maintenance. (Ottawa Sun)
Is anyone willing to bet against Sidney Crosby showing up in a Ron Hainsey disguise?
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is publicly pushing for his city to become an NHL hub city. The mayor publicly sent a letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and is touting the merits of Edmonton. There are only 58 active COVID-19 cases in the Alberta province. (Oilers Nation)
It would seem incredible to avoid Canada as a hub city, but national governments are getting in the way. Edmonton would be one of, if not the safest city in the league to host games. However, additional quarantine rules and a potentially closed border must give pause to those working on the NHL return logistics.
The Stanley Cup odds have been updated. The Penguins are 15-1. The Philadelphia Flyers are the Metro Division favorites. Yep. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
And I’m proud of the prospect work we’ve done over the past week. From the video scouting of P-O Joseph to our conversation with Wilkes-Barre/GM Mike Vellucci, if you want to know which prospects have a shot at the NHL, we’ve got you covered with credible and educated insight. Vellucci was candid on the Penguins dark horse prospects, including Emil Larmi and Niclas Almari. It’s part of PHN+ (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
More updates throughout the day. Check back often.