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Sources have told Larry Brooks of the New York Post that the NHL’s focus of returning to play has shifted from finishing the 2019-20 regular season to going straight to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 24 teams, including a best-of-three play-in round. This plan was previously proposed by NoVa Caps earlier in the pause.
Issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic like testing remain as the NHL and NHLPA continue to meet regularly to try to find the best way to crown a 2020 Stanley Cup Champion.
NHL players remain under a stay-at-home recommendation that is expected to be updated within the next week. The league has said that they hope to reopen facilities for small group skates sometime in mid-to-late May but no official timeline has been dolled out yet. The NHL would have to keep states’ guidelines and recommendations in mind while planning a resumption to the season.
International travel and border-crossing restrictions between the United States and Canada are also issues that need to be resolved before the season resumes as many European players traveled across the ocean to quarantine.
Teams’ television contracts have played a big role in determining how to resume the season as $150 million in revenue could be lost if the 2019-20 regular season is in the books.
According to The Post, the three reasons for the change of plans by the league include: “1) Condensing the duration of play to better guard against the potential of a second wave of the coronavirus striking and necessitating a second shutdown; 2) Avoiding having to reassemble teams with no realistic chance of making the playoffs and having them play up to a month’s worth of meaningless games; 3) Avoiding the prospect of a quarantine within a hub city/hotel for up to four months, including a three-week training camp, for teams going deep into the playoffs following a regular-season completion.”
Every NHL team with a points percentage of at least .500 would be in the tournament if this was the case.
If the NHL were to put the top-six from each division in the tournament instead of the top-12 from each conference, the Anaheim Ducks (.472 points percentage) and Buffalo Sabres (.493) would be in the tournament in favor of the Chicago Blackhawks (.514) and New York Rangers (.564), respectively.
If 24 teams were in the tournament, the seven teams out (the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Ducks, Sabres, and New Jersey Devils) would be eligible for the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, which could be held in early June before the season resumes. The lottery order would apply regardless of whether the NHL Draft is held before the season resumes or after.
By Harrison Brown