NHL playoff scenarios run the gamut of where, when and how

NHL playoff scenarios run the gamut of where, when and how

Shorts and skates don’t usually mix. Maintaining NHL-quality ice in August or holding a Stanley Cup Final in September? Those are far from the norm, too.

With the NHL playoffs, which were to begin Wednesday, on indefinite hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, anything and everything is on the table if Commissioner Gary Bettman’s objective to complete the season is to be realized.

What the format will be, when play might realistically resume and whether the NHL might require games at neutral sites — how’s North Dakota sound? — is anyone’s guess.

“Those are all fair questions but not ones that we have to resolve right away,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press by email, likening the situation for the league to a “a multi-faceted puzzle.”

Over the weekend, the governors of New York and Florida both tamped down President Donald Trump’s hope of sports resuming in August. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “I would love to see sports back to help with cabin fever. … But this is not about hopes and dreams and aspirations and what you would like to see.”

The NHL, which postponed play March 12, has several times pushed back its self-quarantine guideline — it’s now April 15 — before players can even think about reporting to team facilities. The date is expected to be extended again.

Wherever and whenever the Stanely Cup is awarded, one thing will still hold true as far as Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford is concerned.

“Whoever wins it, it is going to feel the same whenever they win it, on whatever day they win it, as it would winning it normally in the middle of June,” Rutherford said.

The latest the Cup has ever been awarded is June 24, in 1995 and 2013, with both instances following lockout-shortened seasons. The pandemic, however, has no timetable.

That leads to questions over whether the NHL will have time to squeeze in any of the remaining 189 regular-season games to determine seedings, or skip directly to the playoffs based on the current standings, be it by based on total points or points percentages.

In the percentage scenario, the ninth-place New York Islanders would have the edge over the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference. In the West, seventh-place Winnipeg would be the odd team out with Vancouver in.

Other possibilities include expanding the playoff format to take into account the uneven amount of games teams have played.

The various formats led to amusing exchanges between players during recent video calls.

“I’d rather start the playoffs right away,” said Alex Ovechkin, whose Washington Capitals lead the Metropolitan Division. He then laughed and said, “Sorry guys,” referring to the other three players on the call.

“Don’t say sorry to me,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. “We’re in a playoff spot.”

New Jersey defenceman P.K. Subban proposed a 31-team format — every team in the league — which might be the only way the Metropolitan’s last-place Devils qualify.

Others raised the need to play as many regular-season games as feasible to preserve the integrity of the playoffs, as well as a need to re-acclimate to the speed and intensity of the action.

The need for tune-up games was not lost on Oilers captain Connor McDavid. Edmonton faces the prospect of opening the playoffs against Calgary — a rivalry that featured several penalty-filled regular-season matchups already this season.

“I don’t think you can just step into the playoffs, Game 1, have Calgary come to Edmonton and guys just run around and kill each other and haven’t played a game in two months,” McDavid said.

Flames captain Mark Giordano noted the playoffs would be additionally competitive because teams would feature healthy rosters, given the amount of time players have had to rest and recover.

And don’t forget the goalies.

“You can train and practice and stuff, but when you get to camp, I find the NHL shot and speed of the game is something you have to catch up on,” Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “It would be nice to have a few to get back in touch.”

Foligno raised a concern over the number of games some players might have to play over a calendar year should the playoffs stretch into September, and the following season being a month or two later.

“You’ve got to think about the longevity of guys’ careers and their health as well,” Foligno said. “Any idea is worth it at this point. But we’ve got to think about how we’re going to go ahead here and smartly both on the business side and the health side.”

Jets coach Paul Maurice was on board for any scenario, so long as it means providing fans a distraction.

“God, it’d be playoffs with fresh hockey players and it’d be pretty darn exciting,” Maurice said Monday. “We’d play anywhere.”

___

AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed.

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

John Wawrow And Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Caitlin Kraft, the sister of Jeffery Kraft, stands third from the left, holding a sign calling for the maximum sentence for Campbell, who is charged with manslaughter. (Photo by Paul Cowley)
UPDATED: Judge again rejects submission of 7-year sentence for slaying of Kraft

Tyler John Campbell charged with second-degree murder for December 2019 homicide

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Most Read