Here we are, into the unknown…
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the NHL to put the 2019-20 season on “pause.” When will see hockey again? How will the rest of the season play out? Will the Stanley Cup be awarded? Those are questions that will remain unanswered for the moment.
As we wait for hockey’s return, let’s remember where we left off after Wednesday night’s NHL action.
The Capitals, Bruins, Blues, and Golden Knights are your four division leaders and the Flyers, Penguins, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Avalanche, Stars, Oilers, and Flames are your No. 2 and No. 3 divisional seeds. Rounding out the playoff picture we have the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Jets, and Predators as the four wild cards.
Eager to find their way into a playoff spot, the Islanders, Rangers, Panthers, Canucks, Wild, and Coyotes are just a few points out.
The NHL could contemplate several options if there’s a timely return to playing games again.
• The remainder of the season could be played with the beginning of the playoffs being pushed back beyond the original April 8 start date.
• Cut down from 82 games to something in the 70’s and go from there.
• End the regular season and use points percentage to determine the 16 playoff teams and seeds.
• Remember all that talk about “play-in” games like the NCAA basketball tournament? If there will not be a resumption of the regular season, teams can play a mini tournament to determine the final two playoff spots in each conference.
This situation is obviously very fluid and the NHL is contemplating a range of situations as they hope for a green light to play again.
There is the sense, though, that if the season extends into summer, it won’t affect the start of the 2020-21 schedule. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Sportsnet that he expects 2020-21 to be a “normal season.”
[RELATED: NHL decides to ‘pause’ regular season due to coronavirus]
The Rangers forward was scheduled to have a Friday hearing with the Department of Player Safety for his hit on Joonas Donskoi of the Avs.
Will we hear that announcement on Friday? Or will Lemieux have a long wait to not only learn his fate?
The scoring races
Leon Draisaitl holds a 13-point lead over Oilers teammate Connor McDavid for the Art Ross Trophy:
Leon Draisaitl – 110 points
Connor McDavid – 97
David Pastrnak – 95
Artemi Panarin – 95
Nathan MacKinnon – 93
Draisaitl is also in the mix for the Rocket Richard Trophy, but is five goals behind David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin, who each have scored 48 this season:
David Pastrnak – 48 goals
Alex Ovechkin – 48
Auston Matthews – 47
Leon Draisaitl – 43
Mika Zibanejad – 41
If there was a Gretzky Award for most assists, Draisaitl would have an edge there with 67, four more than McDavid and Artemi Panarin.
Leon Draisaitl – 67 assists
Artemi Panarin – 63
Connor McDavid – 63
John Carlson – 60
Brad Marchand – 59
The draft lottery picture
Here’s where the race to draft Alexis Lafreniere No. 1 overall stands:
Detroit Red Wings — 18.5 percent
Ottawa Senators — 13.5 percent
Ottawa Senators* — 11.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 7.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 6.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 6 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 5 percent
New Jersey Devils** — 3.5 percent
Minnesota Wild — 3 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 2.5 percent
Nashville Predators — 2 percent
Florida Panthers — 1.5 percent
Calgary Flames — 1 percent
(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Pierre LeBrun on Friday that a decision on the draft and scouting combine has not been made at this point. He did add, “The only thought to conducting an on-line draft (or one conducted telephonically/technologically) would be if there would be a need to do so.”
The post-lockout 2005 NHL Draft was held in an Ottawa ballroom and featured no fans and only the top 20 prospects in attendance.
Bettman said on Thursday that he “expects” the league to resume at some point and he wants to award the Stanley Cup this season. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported on Thursday that the league has reached out to teams to get arena availabilities through the end of July as part of preparing for what could happen next.
Then you also have the questions about what to do about free agency and when player contracts expire if the season goes beyond July 1? How is the 2020-21 salary cap, which was expected to rise, affected by this potential hit on revenue?
So many questions, and we don’t know when we’ll have any answers.
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.