Rozner: The Stanley Cup playoffs in September? It's possible under potential NHL plan

  • Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL are discussing scenarios in which the season can be completed.

    Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL are discussing scenarios in which the season can be completed. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/1/2020 3:13 PM

Just like the rest of the leagues trying to dream up plans for a restart, the NHL is discussing ways to finish the hockey season.

With speculation rampant, the NHL put out a statement Wednesday night denying that any decision has been made and that no timeline has been set.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While true, teams are nevertheless being made aware of possible scenarios, and three organizations I know of have been telling staffers to think along these lines -- with the ubiquitous qualifier that it's subject to change.

No doubt this is just one of many that has been thrown against Gary Bettman's wall:

• The NHL would begin bringing players back together in early June for a training camp that would last about 18 days.

• The regular season would then resume with a target of July 1 to recommence games, all teams finishing the season, including those with no chance to make the playoffs. The NHL wants it to be as fair as possible, which means teams fighting for a wild-card spot would at least have an opportunity to make their way into the tournament.

• Under this proposal, the games would be played at neutral sites and would have teams playing only within their division, players staying in a hotel and monitored as the season concludes, told they will be sequestered for about 42 days.

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• The six-week time frame includes camp (17 or 18 days) and the final 12 or 13 regular-season games over 24 or 25 days.

• The playoffs would begin approximately Aug. 1 and would occur over two months, as always, and conclude near the end of September.

• October would be a month off for the players to heal, and teams would come back for camp about Nov. 1.

• The targeted start date for next season would be Dec. 1.

Obviously, no part of this is perfect and it's not going to be completely fair, as not every team will have the same schedule.

The Blackhawks, for example, have 8 games remaining outside their division on the original schedule, and instead would play only within their division.

They weren't going to make the playoffs anyway, so it doesn't much matter for them, but for the teams trying to reach the postseason there's some inequity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There's also the question of whether teams missing the playoffs would want their best players on the ice and risking injury, so there may be some issues with clubs holding off on having their best skaters available.

Would you blame them?

With the season beginning so quickly in the fall, it's a question some teams will be asking. Injuries will undoubtedly play a part in the rest of this season and the next.

Next season will be compact and there's been discussion of removing the 10-day break and the all-star break to save time on the schedule as the league tries to find a reasonable end date to the 2020-21 season.

Next is the question of the 2020 draft and when to hold it, not to mention draft positions. Will it be based on the current standings or those at the end of a regular season that could conclude in late July?

It's one more reason for teams that are out of it to keep their best players off the ice.

But it's clear that the players want to play, want to finish the season and want the playoffs in full, and some of that has to do with salaries, escrow and television network revenue.

And with contracts ending June 30, there must be some give and take between owners and players.

In any case, this is just one proposal making the rounds among the clubs, and head coaches have been talking to their staffs about how this might work, and how they need to prepare.

The first seven weeks of this would probably not include fans or media, and no part of this would be fair to all teams involved, but the league and the players seem to be of the belief that it's better for everyone involved if they can finish the season and orchestrate a full postseason schedule.

Maybe it sounds impossible. Maybe it sounds crazy. Maybe no portion of this actually occurs.

But if you're desperate for some televised hockey, it sounds like the NHL has every intention of trying to make the playoffs a reality.

At this point, there's no perfect solution, but at least it's some kind of solution.

As for whether it happens, your guess is as good as Gary Bettman's.

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