04/06 13:48 CDT NHL playoff scenarios run the gamut of where, when and how
NHL playoff scenarios run the gamut of where, when and how
By JOHN WAWROW and STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writers
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
"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
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
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
"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
New Jersey defenseman 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
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
"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
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