We don’t know when or if the NHL will finish out the 2019-20 season. The coronavirus pandemic has put the final few weeks of the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs up in the air.
As we wait to see hockey again there have been lots of ideas about how the NHL should complete the season. Should teams play out their 12 or so regular season games? Should the league hold a play-in tournament for teams on the playoff bubble? On a video conference with reporters on Thursday, a few of the Metropolitan Division players weighed in.
“You try to get in as many games as you can, I think,” said Sidney Crosby of the third-place Penguins. “I wouldn’t mind starting right at the playoffs. I think there are a lot of guys in different situations. The more games you can play, the better. When it comes to the integrity of everything, that’s a big part of it.”
“It’s hard to tell, but it would be good to get a few games in before playoffs, especially for teams that are fighting for a spot in,” said Claude Giroux of the Flyers, whose recent surge put them a point behind the Capitals for first place. “You want to give everybody a fair chance, I’d say.”
”For, me of course, the more games we play, it’s going to be better for our fans and it’s going to be better for teams fighting for the playoffs. I’d rather start playoffs right away,” replied Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “Sorry guys.”
There have been many suggestions for what the NHL should do, but the biggest obstacle remains the uncertainty of what lies ahead. All sports leagues around the world can do is monitor the situation and listen to the medical experts for when it’s safe for players, employees, and fans to resume games.
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That limbo is new territory for players. At this point in the season some are preparing for a playoff run, while others are playing out the string before beginning their off-seasons earlier than desired. Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno noted that the idea of finishing out this season possibly over the summer and then playing out a full 2020-21 schedule beginning in the fall could have a big affect.
“You’ve got to think about the health and safety of star players as well,” he said. “When you’re playing that many games a year, now we’re going to try to push it into that late in the summer and then possibly right into another season a few months later, and then postseason again for some guys, that’s a lot of games in one year that we’re not used to. I’m not saying that guys won’t grind out a way to do it, us hockey players will find a way, but you’ve got to think about the longevity of guys’ careers and their health as well.
“Also, on top of that, now you have possibly in [the] situation [of teams not making the playoffs], you don’t end up playing [the rest of the regular season] and then we come back in November, that’s a long time for you guys to be off, too. Is that advantageous or is that worse?”
Everything remains up in the air and it will be that way indefinitely. The good thing is there will be plenty of time for ideas to be suggested and tweaked before final decisions need to be made. Everyone wants to see the season completed and the Stanley Cup awarded for 2019-20.
“I think guys have been honest in throwing out ideas because any idea is worth it at this point,” added Foligno, “but we really have to think about how we’re going to go ahead here smartly, both on the business side and on the health side and for the fans as well. We want to give them the best product every time we step on the ice. That’s something we pride ourselves on, and they expect it. They’re the ones paying their hard-earned money for it. It’s all stuff we’ve got to think about.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.