As the NHL continues to determine its next steps in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project poses a particularly interesting dilemma.
Right now, it’s not a matter of where – a virtual setup, similar to what football fans will see Thursday night as the NFL draft, seems to be the only sure solution – but the “when” is still very much in question.
The league is currently consulting with teams on the idea of moving forward with a June project, keeping the marquee event schedule, despite the fact that the 2019-20 season would not be over at this point. .
Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said on Tim & Sid on Thursday that while a June draft isn’t a perfect solution, he thinks it’s the best way to go.
“I would agree with that,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but I would say this: who knows what it’s going to look like if we think we’re going to do it in August, September or October? If we play hockey, if we finish a Stanley Cup, if we have the hope and anticipation of making a quick turnaround and starting a new season. “
Tim and Sid
Brendan Shanahan on the future of the 2019-2020 season
April 23, 2020
Keeping the draft in as little as two months would not have much effect on the teams’ assessment of prospects since the junior leagues and major events have already been canceled.
“I don’t think doing that in August or September will really change much,” said Shanahan. “We are no longer going to see these young players play. We’ve seen them all, we all have videos on them. “
There are, however, several potential complications that should be addressed – including the fact that the final ranking (and the lottery odds) would not yet be decided at this stage. It also raises questions about the ability of teams to trade with active players and how to proceed with teams having (or ahead) conditional choices based on classification or playoff results.
“It’s not ideal, we’ll never be able to draft this year where we’ll be on the field together and mix and mingle and trade and talk to each other,” said Shanahan. “So my point of view – and that’s just the Maple Leafs point of view, and I spoke to Kyle Dubas about this – is that while we know what we’re doing now, which isn’t nothing, we should get it out of the way and take care of it in June. I know other clubs and I respect the fact that they might have a different opinion, but Toronto would certainly support the league by doing it from a distance in June. “
Regarding the resumption and completion of the 2019-2020 season, one idea being considered is a four-city setup that would see players from each division go down to a hub to play things.
Shanahan thinks that using city centers is “a very feasible scenario.”
“I like the idea of four central cities, the idea of bringing each division to this central city,” said Shanahan. “We are not talking about doing it right now or anywhere around the corner, but when the weather is clear and the proper authorities give permission to do so, with the right precautions, I think it is a very achievable scenario. “
Reports earlier in the month suggested that the league could consider hosting games at neutral venues in non-NHL cities like North Dakota or New Hampshire. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday that the idea was no longer on the table, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Wednesday that the use of NHL rinks would be a necessary part of the league’s ability to resume.
“We can’t play in a small university rink in the middle of a small community because if we want to be centralized, we need the back of the house that the NHL arenas provide,” Bettman told Ron MacLean on In Conversation. “Whether it’s multiple locker rooms, be it technology, procedures, tables and glass, video replay, broadcast facilities. These are things that are in place in NHL arenas and that is what we will ultimately need if we are to come back centrally and play several games a day. “
Shanahan said Toronto is one of the cities being considered, adding that the league “is considering several” options.
“I think it can happen. I think it is highly unlikely that we will be playing any part of this season – be it summer or early fall – in front of the fans, but I still think there is an appetite for games and to put them on and just make a really great TV product and make everyone feel a little bit normal, “said Shanahan. “I don’t think the first step to ‘getting back to normal’ will be the way we left it, but I think we have to sort of adjust our expectations somehow. This plan that I heard, with the four main cities, I think is a plan that can work. “