Five thoughts on the future of the NHL in 2020-2021 and beyond

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What’s next for the NHL?I’m not asking this in an existential way; I honestly think people want a more literal answer. To be clear, I don’t have hard answers like no one literally does. The league wisely waits to burn any decision – just as it has been wise to wait to name host cities for the 2019-20 NHL playoffs – which means all anyone can do is sit down. sit down and assess the progress of the pandemic over the winter months. , which will affect the options available in the league.

But I have a few guesses about that and a small handful of other topics related to the offseason and what’s to come in 2020-2021 and beyond. Here we go:

1. What will the NHL look like in the coming months?

What I think is most likely is that the NHL will play a shortened 2020-2021 season that starts in January (maybe 55-60 games?). It will likely start in a variety of hub cities – potentially two in Canada and a handful in the United States which are considered the safest and most likely to have fans at the games. And there will almost certainly be a Canadian divide given the border issues.

The goal will be to get through the start of the season as the second wave subsides, hopefully, so the league can add more fans for the second half of the season. I say “more fans”, because I think there will be an attempt to include at least a few from the start, with numbers hopefully increasing over the months. I believe the league will do everything possible to play as many matches as possible with as many paying humans present as is safely (or at least legally) permitted.

2. The potential All-Canadian division: yes or no?

I love him and I don’t love him. I like the idea of ​​Canadian teams playing Canadian teams. I love that these games attract more eyeballs, at least north of the border. I like the idea of ​​fueling rivalries between Canadian fans and cities, even temporarily.

But I certainly don’t like the idea that Canadian teams, who have long struggled to achieve a meaningful result in the playoffs, are suddenly going to be given a berth in the conference finals (assuming a divisional playoff format) . Honestly, the worst-case scenario for the Canadians, with the long struggle to bring the Cup north of the border, is that they get there in a shortened year with a Canadian team that has charted a clear path to the final. conference. Of course, that wouldn’t logically diminish anything – the team that won would still have made it through the rest of the league – but you just don’t want to give non-Canadians the pretense of an “asterisk” in the year a team finally gets it. it is done.

So, in conclusion, I really like the idea of ​​a Canadian division. I just don’t like the idea that he is giving the haters a hockey argument.

3. Will everything that has happened over the past few months make the teams and players appreciate the fans more?

Difficult yes, and I think for quite a while too. I laughed as I thought back to the days when the Toronto Maple Leafs were accused of refusing to say hello to their fans because they didn’t like the way they were treated or anything. Suddenly the salary cap is set for years and escrow is a billion percent and players are going to see a fraction of the deals they’ve signed because the fans can’t watch the games. This reality will certainly merit them further appreciation.

It’s the cold aspect, though – the warm aspect is the realization of the value fans add to games, I would say this more in hockey than any other sport, because hockey lives and dies with the “ooohs” that rise and fall. “Ahhhs” that come when rushes build up and down.

We knew the fans would be missing from the game. We knew some wallets were going to take significant damage here. But seeing it play out in real life really bolstered the display of love that the game will inevitably provide to its customers when it returns.

4. Why doesn’t anyone drop an offer sheet in a year, you could clearly land a name player?

I’ve asked some NHL minds about this, and the general consensus is less “Well the cap is tight and nobody wants to offend anyone” and more “Honestly, I have no idea – I can’t. not believe that this is not the case happened yet.

Mike Futa said on Sportsnet that the New Jersey Devils, during his interview with the general manager, asked a lot of questions about the offer sheets because it was a method of rapid improvement that they wanted to pursue. The obvious problem here is that they don’t have their own second round pick in 2021, which hurts their ability to target players who are in a fairly large salary range – however, given what is out there, you you wonder if you are trying to swap. going back for that choice would be worth it (it probably would!).

Overall, it seems less of a question of “teams don’t want to do it because X”, (which you often hear) and more of “each team has some limitation” (like missing a second Devils) which is just preventing them from doing something they would probably want to do.

The fact that it hasn’t happened yet means it probably won’t. But maybe we’ll be surprised again. Stay tuned, Lightning fans!

5. Will goaltending pairs be more valuable next season?

Absolutely. One of the agreed-upon developments in the Age of Analysis is that goalkeepers perform significantly worse in the second half of consecutive games.

Whatever happens next season, the only thing you can count on is a lot of back to back as they try to play the season as much as possible in as short a time as possible. The organizational depth of the goalkeeper will be more important than ever.

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