We’re all naturally wondering as hockey fans how the NHL will try to restart the season, and so much is still completely unknown and anyone’s guess.
It’s almost been a full month now since the NHL, along with much of life as we knows it, was put on pause amid concern of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Nashville Predators were preparing to play a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs the night the NHL paused the season.
This is such a fluid situation, and sports are so trivial compared to the public health crisis and economic crisis that is resulting from this pandemic. It far outreaches the sports the world, but eventually we will all get back to normal.
When it comes to the NHL, they’re in a very tough predicament when it comes to how they will approach not only this current season, but also next season.
There’s many different ways NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league can eventually decide to go. This all depends on things that are far out of just their control, but there’s still a shred of hope that there will be hockey late into the summer.
The best-case scenario
First off, there is a little clarity offered from the NHL per Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic regarding not only the state of the current season, but also next season:
A reminder that the NHL is willing to delay the start of next season until November in order to finish off this season if possible with summer hockey. NHL believes they can play a full season next year starting in November, cancel ASG/bye week, play playoffs into late June ’21
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 13, 2020
This scenario seems the most realistic, the most fair and makes the most sense. Finish this season even if it means delaying the start of next season into November.
For this to happen, it will obviously mean a more condensed regular season in 2020-21. More back-to-backs, skipping the All-Star Game bye week and having the playoffs go later into the summer than normal.
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So in other words, this could end up impacting sports in a big way even over a year from now. But this does make the most logical sense. The last thing we want to see is an abbreviated season and Stanley Cup champion in both this season and next season.
This scenario will make the schedule even more grueling than it already is, but it at least keeps the NHL from having to put an asterisk on this season or the next season. We don’t want to see that asterisk if at all possible.
As it pertains to the Nashville Predators, they have a tough task ahead of them to turn the engines back on and play several key games that will decide their playoff fate if indeed they get to play their last 13 games.
Multiple games against division foes Minnesota and Colorado remain, and they also have critical games against Winnipeg and Arizona. This will be fun and nerve-racking all at the same time for fans to watch if we’re lucky enough to see hockey return this summer.
Furthermore, finishing out the regular season can hopefully allow Roman Josi to continue his outstanding season that should end in his first Norris Trophy for being the NHL’s top defenseman.
There’s the most-talked about scenario of starting in the playoffs and skipping the last 12 or 13 games that teams have left. This isn’t as bad as never finishing the season at all, but it’ll be tough luck and unfortunate for those teams that were right on the doorstep of getting in the playoff field.
This seems like the more likely scenario at this point. If they’re really going to remain cautious about all of this, then I don’t see how they manage to finish the regular season. I hope I’m wrong on that.
Even if this means the Nashville Predators will get in the playoff field, I don’t want to see them get in this way. I’d rather see them earn their way in by playing the last 13 games on their schedule.
They can also go with shortening the playoff series from best-of-seven to best-of-five. More upsets can happen in this scenario, but you can push through the playoffs much quicker and salvage some sort of an offseason.
The sooner this current season wraps up, the less of an impact it will have on next season. If they were to finish it quick enough, then maybe next season even starts at its regular time in October.
Finally, to be the safest as possible and still play the games, the games will almost certainly have to be played in front of no fans. In the end, the safety of everyone’s health is infinitely more important than completing a season.
To be clear, in no way am I advocating that anything gets started back up until the medical experts and professionals deem that it’s safe for the players to return to action.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health