draft lottery

Reports: NHL may skip rest of regular season, jump to 24-team playoff format

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Could the NHL go with a plan to skip the regular season and jump to a 24-team playoff format if play resumes? That idea is at least gathering steam among many other options, according to a wide array of reporters (including TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks).

How a 24-team playoff format might work for the NHL

Brooks and Friedman note that even narrowing things down to 24 teams could be a bit tricky. Brooks quickly summarizes a couple 24-team scenarios:

The format of a 24-team tournament has not yet been established. But if the league goes with the top 12 teams in each conference, that would include every club at NHL .500 or better when play stopped on March 11. That structure would include the Rangers and Chicago.

If the league were for some reason to go with the six top teams in each division — the NHL hasn’t had a division-based playoff system since 1992-93 — that would mean that the Sabres (.493) would replace the Rangers (.564) and the Ducks (.472) would replace the Blackhawks (.514).

During TSN’s Insider Trading, LeBrun noted that “nothing is decided,” and that a 24-team playoff format is “not for everyone.”

As Dreger notes, the “play-in” portion could help narrow down what would feel like a bloated 24-team field. If the Rangers/Sabres/Blackhawks/etc. needed to play into such a spot, it would make their berths feel more “earned.”

In late March, I espoused some of the virtues of at least certain play-in elements. But, frankly, the best part of this proposal would be that the NHL’s lottery-fodder teams wouldn’t need to go through the motions.

It’s bad enough to play meaningless games in a dangerous sport like hockey. Imagine the stress and risk of playing out the string during this pandemic? We could see shades of that in the Kings shutting down Jeff Carter for the season.

Cutting off the regular season would also make it more feasible to hold a lottery and thus a June draft. That … is a debate for another time, or for angry people on social media.

As that Insider Trading segment notes, the NHL’s also considering 16-team and 20-team formats, not just 24.

Dizzying logistical concerns for a possible NHL return

For those of us who are sports and hockey-starved, we might feel like an anonymous exec telling Friedman that they’d be willing to play “on Jupiter.” But if you dig into the day-to-day details, the situation gets fuzzier.

Consider just some of the factors the NHL must mull over:

  • As an international league, the NHL wouldn’t just need to worry about state-by-state restrictions. Traveling to Canada and the U.S. could present obstacles, even with “hub” formats.
  • The NHL hopes to play things right in case there’s a “Phase 2” of outbreaks, with a December start for 2020-21 as one option. Threading that needle would be easier said than done, though, especially if a 24-team playoff format required many NHL postseason games.
  • The sheer scale of keeping things clean and safe is pretty mind-boggling. During that TSN Insider Trading segment, Frank Seravalli provided fascinating insight on the league’s “cost-benefit analysis.” If daily testing would be necessary, Seravalli said some wonder if it would cost teams “millions, or even tens of millions.” One estimate indicated that sanitizing locker rooms would cost about $1,500 per day.
  • Getting into the safety issue once again, what about older staffers, including coaches? Their risks would be heightened.
  • Local TV commitments are another brow-furrowing element.
  • Speaking of TV, Friedman went over many of the intriguing elements of potentially broadcasting games with empty arenas. Could a lack of crowd open the door for creative camera angles? Should a DJ add to the mood? Might teams pipe in crowd noise as if “Goldberg” was in the building?

Overall, it’s pretty staggering to ponder the many logistical challenges.

On the other hand, not playing means massive financial losses, and bountiful boredom. These are challenging times, and pulling off a 24-team playoff format (or any format) wouldn’t be easy. What do you think about the general concept, though?

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.

Golden Knights’ DeBoer not in favor of bye week (or tournament for top draft pick)

Peter DeBoer not in favor of bye week lottery tournament Golden Knights
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It sounds like Peter DeBoer isn’t fond of some outside-the-box hockey ideas for whenever play might resume. Specifically, DeBoer objected to a) a playoff format that would involve bye week(s) and b) a tournament to determine which team gets the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

DeBoer addressed those issues and more during a March 31 interview with ESPN on Ice’s Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski. The Golden Knights’ head coach also reiterated to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that he’s not in favor of a “bye” week-type setup on April 3 (sub required).

DeBoer: not in favor of a bye week/more than 16 NHL playoff teams

DeBoer told ESPN on Ice that he wants the Stanley Cup to be awarded in a way that the winning team wouldn’t need an “asterisk.”

Even so, he’d ask the NHL’s planners to thread the needle. DeBoer doesn’t want more than 16 teams in a playoff format, but also wants things to be fair. Around the 28-minute mark of the podcast, DeBoer indicated that he’d prefer sacrificing some rest if it meant that the Golden Knights would be less rusty in a postseason situation.

” … There’s a huge advantage to having played games,” DeBoer said.

Of course, DeBoer calls for a typical format with his Golden Knights ranked first in the Pacific Division. Would he feel the same way if Vegas was ranked outside of the wild card, but with games in hand, or some other fuzzy situation?

Even DeBoer hinted at seeing things differently if his team wasn’t in such a comfortable spot.

“I’m more in favour of the traditional format,” DeBoer said to LeBrun. “Although I understand that we’re not a bubble team and I’m sure for my good friend Paul Maurice (in Winnipeg) it’s different when you’re either just in or just out depending on whether they (use) points percentage or not. But yeah I prefer the traditional route.”

DeBoer shoots down tournament for the top pick

DeBoer made some great points to Kaplan and Wyshynski about the potential downsides of a hypothetical tournament to determine the top pick.

As a coach who’s been behind the bench for some lottery teams, DeBoer addressed the elephant in the room. When you’re suffering through a lousy season, you just want it to end as soon as possible.

Now, some would debate DeBoer’s assertion that fans might not have an “appetite” for a No. 1 pick tournament. Maybe that would be true for fans during a typical season, but under these circumstances, I’d imagine there would be a lot of interest to see a lottery tournament of sorts.

From fans, at least. It would be strange not just for the coaches, but also the players involved. After all, how much should a current player care about their team landing that draft’s top pick? Maybe a “core” player would see the value, but plenty of others 1) wonder if they’ll even play for that team much longer and 2) would view a better pick as a bigger threat to their spot.

There’d be serious cognitive dissonance to playing high-stakes games to possibly hurt your career. After all, a higher draft pick is that much more likely to push players down the depth chart, or off of it altogether. So DeBoer definitely makes some good points.

DeBoer backed up earlier comments made by Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan.

(Then again, players might warm up to the idea if … say, playing a lottery tournament cut down on their money lost from escrow. Just throwing it out there.)

More from DeBoer

That ESPN on Ice interview (from 26-minute mark to 38) is worth your time, as DeBoer also discusses:

  • Load management: DeBoer was asked the question if things get congested between a modified end to 2019-20 while getting in a full 82 games. His general takeaway is that, while not often using healthy scratches, teams already practice subtle load management.

(Personally, I still think NHL teams could do more, and smart ones might benefit in the long run.)

It’s one thing for Brad Marchand to land on such a list. But Cousins is funnier because … well, he might not always walk the walk. At least at the NHL level.

  • Among other things, DeBoer also spoke about the strange transition of becoming Golden Knights head coach after being fired by the hated Sharks. He seems to indicate that it wasn’t as awkward as one might think.

DeBoer gives us a lot to ponder thanks to those two interviews. Do you agree with DeBoer on avoiding a bye week and not having a No. 1 pick tournament?

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Biggest questions for NHL during coronavirus pause

Biggest questions facing NHL coronavirus pause morning skate
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Elliotte Friedman goes into great detail exploring the biggest questions the NHL is facing regarding the coronavirus, and suspension of its season. What would it take to resume play, and how might that look? Also, what about the salary cap, and the 2020-21 season? These questions need answers, and they haven’t been provided yet, but Friedman provides insight on the biggest questions the NHL faces. (Sportsnet)

• NHLers will be paid their final three checks, even though the season has been suspended (or “paused”). This decision is more complicated than it may seem at first. (ESPN)

• An “FAQ” about the pause for the coronavirus, via the league’s website. (NHL)

• Senators fans might agonize over how the NHL handles the draft lottery. (Sportsnet)

• Tuesday could be big as far as IIHF decisionmakers possibly canceling the 2020 World Championships. (Swiss Hockey News.ch)

• Remembering “Bad” Joe Hall, who died during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

• K’Andre Miller reportedly signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers. The Rangers drafted Miller 22nd overall in 2018. Miller, 20, spent the past two seasons with the University of Wisconsin. (Wisconsin State Journal)

• Speaking of NCAA Hockey, Michigan ranks as just one hockey team struggling to comprehend a season screeching to a halt. Michigan coach Mel Pearson said that telling players was “the hardest day I’ve ever had to address a team that the season is over.” (The Detroit News)

• An abstract idea for No. 1-ranked North Dakota to recognize the 2019-20 season. (Grand Forks Herald)

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.

Push for the Playoffs: Bruins won’t make it easy for Panthers to rebound

Panthers Push for the Playoffs vs. Bruins
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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

The Florida Panthers experienced a February they’d like to forget, even looking past the baffling Vincent Trocheck trade. The Panthers simply need to do better if they hope to avoid another unsuccessful push for the playoffs.

Since Feb. 1, the Panthers have squandered many opportunities to fight off the Maple Leafs or secure a wild-card spot, going 5-10-2. The schedule hasn’t always been easy, but respite might not come anytime soon, what with Thursday’s opponent being the formidable Bruins.

There’s talent on this Panthers, team, though. With that in mind, it makes sense that they’re focusing on execution. Erik Haula beamed that “I think you’re going to see a different team on Thursday” following a recent practice, while Joel Quenneville emphasized attention to detail.

“We’ve got to fine-tune our game,” Quenneville said. “The last couple games we got really loose in our own end, and I think our overall game’s got to be tightened, assured and [we’ve got to have] a lot of trust in how we play without the puck. Defensively, we’ve got to be predictable and accountable.”

Whether the Panthers need big changes or minor tweaks, the point is clear: time is running out for the Panthers to make their push for a spot in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Islanders
Capitals vs. Blue Jackets
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blues vs. Jets
Golden Knights vs. Canucks
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Penguins at Sabres, 7 p.m. ET
Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET
Capitals at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Bruins at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
Hurricanes at Flyers, 7 p.m. ET (Watch live on NBCSN)
Islanders at Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET
Stars at Predators, 8 p.m. ET
Oilers at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Wild at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET
Maple Leafs at Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET

Push for the Playoffs East Thursday

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Bruins: 100 percent
Lightning: 100
Capitals: 99.8
Flyers: 99.1
Penguins: 96.8
Maple Leafs: 85.4
Islanders: 74.6
Hurricanes: 63.7
Blue Jackets: 33
Panthers: 23.6
Rangers: 22.2
Canadiens: 1.6
Sabres: 0.2
Devils: 0
Senators: 0
Red Wings: out

Push for the Playoffs West Thursday

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (Via Hockey Reference)

Avalanche: 100 percent
Blues: 100
Stars: 99.8
Oilers: 97.1
Golden Knights: 96.7
Flames: 69.7
Canucks: 65.6
Wild: 52.2
Coyotes: 45.1
Jets: 34.7
Predators: 29.3
Blackhawks: 9.6
Sharks: 0.2
Ducks: 0
Kings: 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Red Wings – 18.5 percent
Kings – 13.5 percent
Senators – 11. 5 percent
Ducks – 9.5 percent
Senators – 8.5 percent*
Devils – 7.5 percent
Sabres – 6.5 percent
Blackhawks– 6 percent
Canadiens – 5 percent
Devils – 3.5 percent**
Jets – 3 percent
Predators – 2.5 percent
Panthers – 2 percent
Rangers – 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets – 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)

ART ROSS RACE

Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 108 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 95 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 92 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 90 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 88 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

David Pastrnak, Bruins – 47 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 46 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 45 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes – 36 goals

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.

Draft lottery odds are set, Panthers have best shot at top pick

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For the first time in league history, the NHL Draft Lottery will give all non-playoff teams a shot at the No. 1 pick and everyone’s fate lies in how the ping pong balls decide to bounce. Everyone from the league’s worst team (Florida) to the last team out of the playoffs (Columbus) will have a chance to climb into the driver’s seat.

How do the odds of landing the No. 1 pick shake out for each team? Here’s the rundown:

Florida Panthers – 25.0%
Colorado Avalanche – 18.8%
Tampa Bay Lightning – 14.2%
Nashville Predators – 10.7%
Carolina Hurricanes – 8.1%
Calgary Flames – 6.2%
Edmonton Oilers – 4.7%
Buffalo Sabres – 3.6%
New Jersey Devils – 2.7%
Dallas Stars – 2.1%
Philadelphia Flyers – 1.5%
Phoenix Coyotes – 1.1%
Winnipeg Jets – 0.8%
Columbus Blue Jackets – 0.5%

Teams with poor odds have won the lottery in the past only to be prevented from grabbing the top pick thanks to the old rules. Think back to 2011 when the New Jersey Devils vaulted from 8th to 4th where they grabbed defenseman Adam Larsson.

Should someone other than Florida win the lottery, they’ll move to the top and everyone else will slide back by a pick. Advanced congrats to the Panthers on being No. 1 or No. 2.

This year’s top choice is likely to be defenseman Seth Jones but others like forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Aleksander Barkov present excellent options for those teams to improve their future.

You can watch the lottery live on NBCSN tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET.