The NHL season is currently in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last NHL games were played on March 11th and it doesn’t look like the league will be returning to action anytime soon, with coronavirus cases continuing to rise in the United States.
NHL.com recently had a conference call with some prominent players and they all seem to have different ideas of the best way to return to action. Players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, who are securely in playoff spots at the moment, would prefer to start right into the playoffs, while representatives from teams on the bubble like the Rangers and Blue Jackets would prefer to have more regular season games to battle their way into the post season.
There are a huge variety of possibilities for how this NHL season will conclude, and the NHL and NHLPA seem to be open to suggestions. One thing is for sure: there will be value to be had in the Stanley Cup winner odds depending on how the league decides to award this years Stanley Cup. HowToBet.ca, the top guide for Canadians looking to bet online, will be the first to break down the best way to bet on the NHL when hockey returns.
A scenario I’ve heard floated around is for the NHL to return in July and entirely finish the regular season over that month. The league would then move to a regular playoff format for August and September, before taking October as the offseason and starting up a condensed 2020-21 season in November.
This would be a great option if possible because it allows the NHL to not lose any games and potentially maintain the majority of its revenue from this year, which is great for all stakeholders, including players who are dependent on revenue to determine the salary cap.
The only issue is that the teams that do have a deep run in the playoffs will only have one month to recuperate for the next season. That said, I don’t think this is as big of an issue as many are making it out to be. This will only truly affect a few teams and there are a few ways to help with this, such as adding a couple roster spots for the first couple months of the season to allow teams to rest players if needed.
It seems this is the most likely scenario currently.
The other options are endless. I personally don’t think they will start right into the playoffs because I believe that will affect revenue and lose some of the integrity of playoff races.
They could cut out like 5 games for each team though, and have everyone play until game 77, which would save about 2 weeks of the season. They could then do 5 game series for the first three rounds of the playoffs before deciding the Cup with a 7-game final. This would cut another week from the playoffs.
Another option, I personally think would be cool, is if they did round robin division tournaments with the winner moving on to the Conference Finals. The mini-tournament could take place in the regular season division winners arena, which would decrease travel (and the coronavirus threat) and allow the first two rounds to be played through in a week and a half. This is unlikely, but it’s an example of how the NHL may think outside of the box to get this season and playoffs concluded in the best manner possible.
I think NHL fans around the world would agree that we don’t really care about the format the NHL decides on, we just want NHL hockey to return sooner than later.