Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun have the latest on the NHL's priority to finish the regular season in some format, how the general managers feel about a number of possible playoff scenarios, and the CHL making contingency plans for 2020-21.
The NHL continues to live in a world of hypotheticals and maybes and hopefullys. What’s the latest as far as scenarios, not only in getting to a playoffs, but perhaps finishing the regular season in some format?
LeBrun: Well I think that’s been a bit lost in all the confusion and all of the different formats being debated and being thrown out there. And I think it’s why NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, according to several sources, on Monday’s board of governors call, reiterated the league’s preference and its priority to try and have some regular season games before a playoff. Whether that’s 82 (games), probably not. 78, 76 and 74 games all a possibility as mentioned on that call. Now, there’s a lot of reasons for this. Now, there’s a lot of reasons for this. One, of course, a lot of the players on their own media calls have suggested that they’d rather have some games before the playoffs. You know, fear of injury and everything else after four months off. But also for the league. The fact that you play some regular season games so you can fairly and more normally decide who the 16 teams are that make the playoffs. Now, other people have started to talk to me in the last couple of days about maybe exhibition games before as opposed to just regular season games, but that’s a story for another day.
Dregs, I know you’ve been talking to the general managers. How do they feel about (this)? Look, if we get to a playoffs in a perfect world, there’s likely to be reduced rounds, as in, best-of-threes, or best-of-fives. How do the GMs feel about those respective scenarios? Is there a favourite?
Dreger: The favourite would be unanimous and that would be seven-game series through four rounds. But, it’s an imperfect world but a perfect time for a flash poll. Twenty-four NHL general managers opted into the poll given the scenario that you just described. Twenty of those support the idea of a best-of-five series ranging from one round to all the way through to the conference final. But they want a seven-game Stanley Cup final. A couple of GMs said no, you’ve got to leave it traditionally the way it is. Seven-game series through four rounds. And then it gets interesting. One GM said a best-of-three in round one. A best-of-five in round two. And then best-of-sevens for the conference finals and the Stanley Cup final. And then one creative general manager suggested a one-game series for the first three rounds and then a best-of-three in the Stanley Cup final. Grasping, of course. But, creative.
Of course any of these are best-case scenarios. The worst-case scenario is they don’t finish this season and they don’t start next season on time. Bob, the CHL has already cancelled the rest of their season. How concerned are they about the start of next year?
McKenzie: Well they really have no answers. They’d love to think that they’re going to be able to start the regular season when it is scheduled. And that is in September in the Ontario league, the Western league and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. But they’ve got to put some contingencies in place that would allow for the possibility that maybe they would have to start later. And never mind the start date, it’s whenever the end date would be. So, while the Memorial Cup is always scheduled for the last week of May, the CHL is looking at a potential scenario where by the 2021 Memorial Cup, which will be held in either Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie, still to be determined, would be held in the first week of June to try and give themselves a little bit more wiggle room if they do have to start the season later. And even if they do have the Memorial Cup in the first week of June, they could still spread the season out. Nothing firm yet, that’s certainly something that is being seriously considered and looked at.