Currently the National Hockey League and its Players Association are “making progress” on discussions toward adopting a conference-based playoff situation, with at least two “hubs” and the possibility of four different arena sites. A conference call took place on Thursday night to hammer out some of the particulars.
BetAnySports customers can look forward to that effort, if it comes to pass, leading to a re-start in mid-July. And with respect to the protocols that have to be set in place, these are details that are nothing small, and have to be worked out relatively soon, because it’s getting a little late in the day.
The way that they’re talking about doing it is to expand the playoff field. It would normally be sixteen teams, but because the rest of the regular season would be scrapped, and some of the races for the lower playoff seeds are very tight, that field would now be moved up to 24 clubs, admitting twelve teams in each conference.
Four top seeds would come from both the Eastern and Western conferences. As it stands now, that would give first-round byes to the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers in the East, and the defending champion St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars in the West.
Those teams will sit it out, while the 5 through 12 seeds in each conference go at it in a best-of-five. But they won’t necessarily be idle. There is talk that the top seeds will engage in three-game series, ostensibly so that they won’t be rusty after a hiatus. But perhaps there will be a purpose for that other than just a glorified exhibition – maybe it will be used to adjust the seeds.
As for the hub cities and locales, commissioner Gary Bettman has explained that the league is considered eight or nine from which it would whittle down. Since there will be no fans permitted, the home ice advantage won’t matter as much. There had been a proposal from North Dakota to be a neutral site for these games, but that plan apparently wasn’t real attractive. A couple of NHL cities have stepped up with the proposition that they can host a dozen teams apiece – Edmonton and Las Vegas.
Of course, there are inherent problems with Edmonton as a site, because of the 14-day quarantine that is required for those crossing the US-Canada border. But the political atmosphere might be expected to “soften” in this instance.
We presume that when the top-4 seeds in the East and West get involved, it will start becoming a best-of-seven situation, taking us eventually to the Stanley Cup finals.
It’s been said by Bettman that the league would like to arrive at a Cup winner, and then segue, without much of a delay, into the next season. It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to have another long “vacation,” although we would expect that there would be an “off-season” in which trades, free agency signings and the like would take place.
Let’s not forget that there are going to be obstacles to be overcome along the lines of health and safety protocols. To implement this kind of thing with team and league employees, particularly those who will have to be on-site, is one thing, but players are virtually on top of each other as they sit on the bench. It’s not like that which has been proposed in baseball, where players could conceivably sit apart from each other in the stands.
However, unlike what we have last heard from Major League Baseball, we appear to have the parties ready to cooperate with each other, and a clear outline for a plan to go forward.
So that gives them a chance.
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