Duhatschek: There are benefits to the NHL's imperfect return-to-play solution

Ruben Hill
May 29, 2020

The league will instead attempt to move forward with 24 teams given a path to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

The Islanders would meet Florida in a best-of-five qualifier playoff series when the National Hockey League season restarts, creating a rematch of their memorable 2016 playoff series win over the Panthers at Downtown's Barclays Center.

Eight of the preliminary seeds, 9-24, will have been eliminated in a best-of-five play-in round to determine which eight teams will go up against the top four "bye" teams in the East and the West, all of whom will have played in the non-elimination round-robin tournament. The leagues' main priority is still the health and safety of each player.

"This is a little bit different dynamic", said Daly, "so we felt like it was important at the request of the NHL Players' Association to make it available, but it will come down to the individual club specifics as to whether they can really accommodate those players on any real basis".

The NHL paused the regular season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and its remaining 189 games will not be completed.

Of course, the biggest pitfalls of the NHL's plan are coronavirus-related: if the USA sees a new spike in cases before July, that could derail the leagues from coming back.

Bettman listed Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver as potential hub cities for the playoffs, but which two of those sites will ultimately be selected is anyone's guess at this point.

Once the season returns, the teams will compete for a place in the 16-team playoffs.

However, while the return-to-play plan may have been formalized, it is not necessarily finalized. As a result, this is the first time in this century that the state of California will have no representatives in the NHL Playoff.

Yes. Speaking on Tuesday, Bettman made clear that the regular season is officially over and the remaining games will not be playe.

If all goes well Phase 3, teams entering formal training camps, will get under way in July. In this unprecedented time, leagues are scrambling to set up sites where they can finish the season.

"I certainly hope that we can (have a Stanley Cup champion)".

"From a health standpoint obviously for the players we are anxious about COVID-19", Bettman added.

All games in the qualifying round will be played with playoff overtime rules, meaning the teams will play 5-on-5 hockey until a victor is determined regardless of the length of game.

Does the Wild have a chance for the top overall pick? The draft won't take place until the Stanley Cup Playoffs are over.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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