Yesterday was a fantastic day for NHL fans (sorry baseball). Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHLPA approved a 24 team playoff in a phased Return to Play plan. Here's everything you might need to know, as well as the winners and losers in this deal.
Winner: Gary Bettman
I know, I can't believe it either. Never thought I'd be praising Bettman and the NHL for being the first out of the gates with a fully outlined return to play plan. If you would've asked me a month ago, I would've told you that the season was lost. It didn't seem like the NHL was in a rush to get something going. Especially when you compare the league with Adam Silver and the NBA, who are constantly talking about future plans and ideas they're throwing around. Instead, the NHL is out front!
The plan is:
- 24 teams
- opening round best of 5
- Covid-19 testing twice a week (or more)
- Tournament will not be shutdown if someone contracts Covid-19
- 2 hub cities will host the tournament (Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver are finalists.)
- Starts late July/early August.
There are still many kinks to work out, including Canada's federal stay at home order which is still active. Bettman said on a conference call yesterday that he is actively working with the Canadian government to come up with a solution. Gary Bettman has garnered a lot of booing during Stanley Cup ceremonies in the past, but if this is executed properly, I think that tradition will change.
Winner: Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks sucked. They were just about eliminated from playoff contention, just over .500 in the standings, and just made the cut for the new playoff. Yes, I know the Montreal Canadiens are a worse team, and also made the cut. The difference is, the Canadiens were not the dynasty of the decade. Instead of another disappointing postseason on the couch, the Hawks get to fight for their lives against a young Edmonton team in a best of 5 series. The Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, 2 of the biggest and youngest stars in the game. Chicago, has Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith; 3 combined Conn Smythe trophies. Oh, and a 2-time Stanley Cup goaltender in Corey Crawford. It's easy to accumulate talent with all the luck Edmonton has had in draft lotteries the past century, but they can't match the enormous experience of the Blackhawks core. Sure their blue line is young and inept, but a lot can happen in a best of 5. Oilers fans should be livid.
Loser: Detroit Red Wings
Let's call it what it is, the Red Wings got absolutely screwed in this whole deal. Not only are they not in the 24 team playoff, but they also don't get boosted draft lottery odds in the process! The lottery will now be held on June 26th, and the teams knocked out in the qualifying round of the playoff, get added to the lottery. After all of this, the Red Wings get nothing. Sure they could end up with the #1 pick, but their odds are only at the standard 18.5%. Worst of all, Commissioner Bettman said we won't start next season until as late as January. No Hockey will be played in "Hockeytown" for 10 months. Detroit lost in every way possible, Yzerman's rebuild remains as difficult as ever.
WE GET HOCKEY! Hell, we get something to watch. If you're anything like me, you probably already burned out on every netflix show you wanted to watch. weeks ago. The Last Dance was a magnificent treat for sports fans, but I need more. We need constant, live, unscripted entertainment. We need a champion after playing almost an entire regular season. Not only do we get playoff hockey, but we get 2 months of it! I never in my wildest dreams did I think this would get done after the first couple weeks of quarantine. Now, we get it all. Yesterday, Bettman said this presents new opportunities to make the broadcasts exciting. Will that be players and coaches mic'ed up? Possibly. Regardless, I don't care. I'm just happy to be back.