NHL Nearing Potential Return?

It’s been more than two months since the NHL, along with the other major team sports leagues in North America, hit the pause button on their seasons. Within a 24 hour span, the NBA, NHL and MLS all paused their seasons while major league baseball delayed opening day. It’s made for rough times for sports fans but there have been pockets of good news among all the gloom. The NBA is talking with the players about figuring out a return while baseball has a proposal on the table that they’re trying to work out with the players.

Over the weekend, the optimism that the NHL is closing in on a potential return surfaced.

According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the NHL met with the Return to Play Committee throughout the weekend and are closing in on a potential deal that would get teams back on the ice. Reports say that the two sides have discussed a 24-team playoff concept, though it seems like the regular season’s final 189 games will be wiped off the board at this stage. According to Friedman, the current outlook is that there could be an announcement for a timetable to return this week.

The players have tried to get the league to schedule some exhibition games in order to get teams up to speed before heading to the postseason but there has been some pushback about that concept. There still is a lot of contention about the potential best-of-three first round of the postseason. Players suggested a best-of-five concept, which makes more sense as no one wants to be on the wrong end of an upset in a short series, but it’s something that the league hasn’t been in favor of. Another concept that has been broached is taking the top four teams in the wild card races who didn’t hold guaranteed playoff spots and have them battle in the short series while allowing the teams that had earned spots to prepare for their actual opponents. Friedman had this to say about the matter:

“We all know the top-seeded teams don’t want byes. Don’t want them. The players suggested maybe a few warmup games early to solve that problem. But the league’s point, which I think is fair, is we won’t have a lot of time. We can’t worry about playing games which won’t matter. The league wanted, to make sure these top teams aren’t sitting for too long, to play a best two-out-of-three first round. I heard the players didn’t like that.”

Another option that has gained some momentum is having the top four teams in each conference getting a bye, with teams that were fifth through 12th in each conference meeting in the opening round series to set the playoff field. Current reports say that the early rounds of the playoffs will be played more than likely in a hub situation but that later rounds could conceivably move back to home arenas. It also sounds as if the NHL Draft, which the league had been pushing to hold in June before the season was completed, may now be held after the Stanley Cup is awarded.

There’s a lot in flux at this stage but the fact that the league seems close to making an announcement that will give fans an idea when things will return to the ice is something to celebrate. Here’s hoping that it pans out the way that everyone is expecting right now.

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Chris King

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO. If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career. Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.