Looking back at the NHL’s shortened and postponed seasons

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Like pretty much every other sport in North America, the 2019-20 NHL season is currently suspended with little idea as to when — or if — it will resume due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This is not the first time an NHL season has been interrupted or cut short.

The league has been stopped by global pandemics, lockouts, and a strike. One thing that did not bring the league to a stop, though, was World War II as the league continued on as a means of attempting to boost morale in North America.

Let’s take a look back at the previous stoppages.

1919 Stanley Cup Final

This is easily the most similar example as to what we are dealing with right now — a global pandemic shutting down, well, everything.

During the 1918-19 season it was an outbreak of the Spanish Flu that impacted the Stanley Cup Final between the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Seattle Metropolitans and the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

There had already been five games played in the series (each team won two games and tied one) with a deciding Game 6 set to be played on April 1 in Seattle. But several players on both teams had become ill, with Montreal’s Newsy Lalonde, Joe Hall, Bill Coutu, Louis Berlinguette, and Jack McDonald all either hospitalized or bed-ridden. Hall died four days later due to pneumonia that was brought on by the flu.

Game 6 was officially cancelled hours before the scheduled puck drop.

Montreal briefly considered using players from the PCHA’s Victoria team, but was ultimately prohibited from doing so. At that point Montreal attempted to forfeit the Stanley Cup to Seattle, a gesture that was refused by the Metropolitans due to the circumstances.

No Stanley Cup was awarded that season.

The 1919 season is included on the Stanley Cup with the following engraving:

1919
Seattle Metropolitans
Montreal Canadiens
Series Not Completed

The Hamilton Tigers walk out

Technically this wasn’t a league stoppage, but it did impact the on-ice results in a significant way.

During the 1924-25 season players for the Hamilton Tigers went on strike after demanding a pay raise due to the season being increased from 24 to 30 games. Players were not given a pay increase. The team’s argument was that players were contracted between specific dates regardless of the number of games played. The player’s sat out, with then-league president Frank Calder declaring the Montreal Canadiens league champions. Montreal went on to play in the Stanley Cup Final where they would lose to the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, making it the first time an NHL team had lost the cup to a team from a rival league.

Following that season the Tigers were purchased by a bootlegger named “Big Bill” Dwyer who moved the franchise to New York where they would become the New York Americans.

The 1992 Players’ Strike

This was the first time labor negotiations put a halt to the NHL season.

The NHLPA called the strike on April 1, just before the conclusion of the regular season and the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The major factors involved in the strike: free agency, arbitration, playoff bonuses, and how to share revenue from trading cards.

The players felt that by walking out so close to the start of the playoffs it would give them an advantage in negotiations because teams were so dependent on playoff revenue. A Federal Mediator eventually joined the negotiations and after 10 days the strike was settled, allowing for the completion of the regular season and playoffs.

The result: An expanded regular season from 80 games to 84 games, two neutral site games per season to gauge interest for potential league expansion, larger playoff bonuses for players, and changes to the free agency and arbitration process.

The Pittsburgh Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup, their second Stanley Cup championship in a row.

The 1994-95 lockout

At the conclusion of training camps for the 1994-95 season, the league locked the players out as CBA negotiations were unable to result in a new deal.

This would be the first time a league fight over a salary cap would impact the season. The league eventually softened on its hard cap stance and proposed a luxury tax system, something that the players viewed as another form of a cap on salaries.

The lockout lasted for more than three months, resulting in 468 regular season games being lost.

In mid-January, a 48-game season was started. It was, at the time, the shortest NHL season in more than 50 years.

The New Jersey Devils would go on to win their first ever Stanley Cup, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in a four-game sweep.

The 2004-05 lockout

This turned out to be the first — and currently only — time a major North American sports season was cancelled in its entirety.

It was also the first time since 1919 that the Stanley Cup was not awarded.

The issue, just as it was in 1994-95, was the introduction of a league salary cap. The league eventually got what it wanted (a salary cap) with an agreement between the two sides finally being reached in July, 2005.

Along with the financial impact, there were several rule changes that followed, from the introduction of the shootout, to the elimination of the two-line pass, to the three-point game that gives teams a point in the standings for losing in overtime or a shootout.

With no season to play and no results, the league used a weighted lottery draft to give all 30 teams a chance at winning the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. The system gave teams with the fewest playoff appearances and No. 1 overall picks over the previous three seasons the best chance to win it. It was ultimately won by the Pittsburgh Penguins who selected Sidney Crosby with the top pick.

The 2012-13 Lockout

The third lockout in two decades began on Sept. 16, 2012 and was finally resolved on Jan. 6, 2013. The main issues were the NHL’s attempt to cut player’s share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent, change the definition of hockey related revenue (cutting the player’s share even further), term-limit on contracts, free agency rights, and salary arbitration.

The new agreement ultimately put a limit on free agency contracts of seven years (eight years for players re-signing with current teams),  mandatory acceptance of arbitration awards under $3.5 million, and an amnesty buyout period that would allow teams to buy out contracts that did not fit under the new league salary cap.

A 48-game season was played beginning on January 19 with all games being played within each conference.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup, their second in three years, by defeating the Boston Bruins in six games.

The 2019-20 pause

Now we have the 2019-20 season, currently paused due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

There is still no timeline on when the season will resume.

Here is a look at where the season stands as of this moment.

MORE:
Hockey leagues following NHL’s lead
Uncertainty awaits as NHL puts season on ice — for now
How grassroots hockey has been affected by COVID-19
Where the NHL left off with 2019-20 season in limbo

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flyers’ Oskar Lindblom rings bell after final cancer treatment

Flyers TV
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A week after hitting the ice with his teammates for the first time in six months, Oskar Lindblom got to ring the bell marking the end of his chemotherapy treatments.

The 23-year-old Flyers forward was diagnosed in December with Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and played only 30 games this season.

On Thursday, Lindblom walked down the hall at Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to ring the bell and celebrate with the nurses who took care of him.

“I can’t even explain how I feel,” he told the Flyers website. “It feels I’m having a birthday, Christmas and all those holidays at the same time. It feels awesome to be done. I can’t wait to just get back to normal life again and start feeling like I’m living.”

(Lindblom will not play for the Flyers later this summer if the NHL resumes the 2019-20 season.)

Since being diagnosed, Lindblom received support from all over the hockey community. Players from the Flyers and around the NHL wore#OskarStrong” shirts and he was given a standing ovation when shown on the Jumbotron during a January game.

“From family to friends to fans, I can’t explain how much they’ve meant to me,” said Lindblom, who is the Flyers’ Masterton Trophy nominee. “Especially at the start when it was a rough time and I got all those kind words. It just made me feel so much better, calm, and it really helped along the way.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Top free agents; O’Reilly up for ‘unique’ challenge

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A look at the top 50 free agents who could hit the market at some point in the next few months. [TSN]

• Which UFA moments have defined the NHL’s salary-cap era? [Sportsnet]

Ryan O'Reilly is up for the “unique” challenge of helping the Blues defend their Stanley Cup title. [NHL.com]

• “There are health risks for the players who will be quarantined in hub cities for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but their concerns don’t end there. It’s possible the players will be paying for the lost revenues caused by COVID-19 for years.” [The Hockey News]

• On players potentially opting out of playing if the NHL resumes this summer. [NBC Sports Washington]

• It’s not looking good for Alexander Romanov, Kirill Kaprizov, and Ilya Sorokin in their attempts to play this season. [Hockey Wilderness]

• The NHL should thank college hockey for producing so many impactful young defensemen. [Grand Forks Herald]

• What Alexis Lafreniere would mean to the Blackhawks. [NBC Sports Chicago]

• Why Shane Doan should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Five for Howling]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hurricanes losing Dudley, still in talks with TV’s Forslund

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said Wednesday that executive Rick Dudley won’t return and the team is still in talks with longtime TV play-by-play announcer John Forslund on a new deal.

The 71-year-old Dudley had worked as Carolina’s senior vice president of hockey operations since 2018, part of nearly five decades in professional hockey. That included serving as general manager for four NHL franchises, and he also played and coached the Buffalo Sabres.

“Rick and I talked months ago and he said that at the end of his contract, he was going to move on,” Waddell said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Waddell said the team has reached agreements with all employees whose deals expired Tuesday so far except for Forslund, who is in his 25th season with the franchise and also does national broadcasts with NBC.

“We’ve had multiple talks: I’ve talked to the agent numerous times, I’ve talked to John a couple of times,” Waddell said. “We’ve laid it out. They didn’t yesterday ask for anything other than some time.”

Reached by the AP on Wednesday evening, Forslund said: “I’ve said it (before), the door’s always open until it’s completely closed. And as of right now, that’s where it stands.”

Los Angeles Kings at 2020 NHL Draft: Byfield or Stutzle with second pick?

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Thanks to the very zany (and very NHL) draft lottery, we don’t know which team will get to draft Alexis Lafreniere first overall. What about picks 2-8, though? PHT will break down those picks one by one, aside from the Senators and their two selections. Let’s start with the second pick, then: what should the Kings do with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft?

For many, the debate boils down to Quinton Byfield or Tim Stutzle. Let’s break down, and also ponder more elaborate ideas (that are probably pretty unlikely).

Kings head into 2020 NHL Draft with a top system already — and some quality centers

Before we dive into Byfield vs. Stutzle, it’s worth noting that they’ll be adding to the foundation of the Kings’ rebuild, rather than starting it.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler calls this an embarrassment of riches for the Kings (sub required). Wheeler noted that some ranked Los Angeles’ farm system first overall before they traded for Tyler Madden, let alone before they can add Byfield or Stutzle.

There are some concerned that the Kings might compile too much of a good thing, as they’re center-heavy among their top prospects. Kings GM Rob Blake didn’t seem concerned about adding a center to a group that includes Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, and Gabriel Vilardi, though.

“No,” Blake told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. “You mention those three, we’ll take four centers like that.”

Frankly, much of the “too many centers” talk seems silly to me.

For one thing, the game is trending more toward players rotating positioning. Even to the point where defensemen and forwards might swap spots depending upon certain circumstances.

Beyond that, we see prospects involved in so many trades that it often seems silly to overthink going for anyone but the “best player available.” That said, we’ll touch on some alternative ideas if the Kings want to avoid too many cooks/centers.

Case for Kings taking Byfield over Stutzle with No. 2 pick of 2020 NHL Draft

After observing how NHL teams fawn over size for years, the reflex might be to roll your eyes about Byfield. Until you realize that Byfield isn’t just a Huge Hockey Human; he’s also put up fantastic numbers during his hockey career.

Byfield produced 82 points (including 32 goals) in 45 games in the OHL last season. That 1.82 PPG pace matches not just fellow top prospect Cole Perfetti, it’s also not far behind the likes of Matthew Tkachuk (1.88 PPG in 2015-16).

Byfield isn’t just big, he’s also fast and skilled. Combining those types of factors inspire lofty comparisons to the likes of Evgeni Malkin or his possible Kings teammate Anze Kopitar.

But most of all, it’s a projection based on potential. Not only his Byfield huge (listed at times at 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5), he might get a little bigger. The 17-year-old won’t turn 18 until Aug. 19. Several months might not seem like much, but this is the age range where players can make big leaps.

If for some reason Byfield couldn’t adapt to playing wing if needed … is that really that big of a concern? My guess is others will be trying to earn spots as his wingers, not the other way around.

The closest thing to a consensus I’ve found calls for the Kings to select Byfield at No. 2, rather than Stutzle.

Colin Cudmore compiled an expected range of mock drafts that generally favored Byfield at No. 2, as did PHT’s collection of mock drafts from before the lottery.

The case for Stutzle over Byfield for the Kings at No. 2

But it sounds like things are pretty close. You could joke that Stutzle is closing in on Byfield as if he was in a race, but scouting reports indicate that Byfield can put on the burners, too.

In a great Byfield vs. Stutzle comparison, Prospect Report’s Ben Misfeldt stated that while he believes Byfield reaches a faster “top speed,” Stutzle sets him apart from others with his agility and ability to accelerate.

Stutzle might be more NHL-ready than Byfield. The 18-year-old showed that he could keep up in DEL (Germany’s top hockey league), generating 34 points in 41 games for the Mannheim Eagles.

“They are both skilled,” An anonymous executive said of Byfield and Stutzle, according to Lisa Dillman of The Athletic (sub required). “Stutzle is just more polished at this point but it’s also hard to find 6-foot-5, 230-pound centermen that can produce.”

In a league shifting more toward skating and speed, could Stutzle be the better pick for the Kings than Byfield? Some lean that way.

Unlikely, but should Kings trade the No. 2 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft?

As stated, it doesn’t seem like the Kings would trade the second overall pick. You can certainly rule out the rebuilding Kings from trading the No. 2 pick for an immediate roster player.

While Alexis Lafreniere seems like a more seamless addition as a winger, it’s also tough to imagine the Kings trading up to get the top selection.

But what about trading down?

As Wheeler and others have noted, the Kings’ biggest prospect needs revolve around defense. Theoretically, the Kings could move that No. 2 pick to slide a little lower, get another pick, and get the player they actually want. What if they view someone like Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson as the player they need? Mock drafts and prospect rankings come in all over the place for those two, so the Kings could view it as feasible to get one or both of them later.

Granted, it’s unlikely for the Kings to land, say, the sixth pick from the Ducks. But what if the Red Wings (fourth overall) or someone else would pay fairly big for the No. 2 pick? It’s at least worth considering.

Not that I’d do it, mind you.

So, what should the Kings do with No. 2?

The Kings have a long time to make this decision. Maybe too much time.

That gives them opportunities to study tape and stats on Byfield and Stutzle. Perhaps they’d even soul search about that unlikely trading down idea, too.

But, if I were running the show? I’d probably try to keep it simple and just take Byfield. Luckily for the fans of all 31 NHL teams, I’m not making those calls, though. What do you think the Kings should do with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft?

More 2020 NHL Draft coverage from PHT

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.