What if the NHL had a homecoming party, but not everyone invited to the party?
Much had yet to be determined from Thursday afternoon, but it seemed that the proposal to return to the league would only include the top 24 of the 31 teams, leaving the Ducks and Kings out of the festivities.
Ten weeks after the NHL suspended the game due to the coronavirus, there were reports that an agreement with the players’ union was within reach that would create a 24-team playoff with the top 12 teams in each of the league’s two conferences.
The Ducks were ranked 13th in the Western Conference with a record of 29-33-9 and 67 points when the game was halted on March 12, five points behind the 12th place Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings were in 14th place with a 29-35-6 mark and 64 points.
Ducks General Manager Bob Murray and King’s counterpart Rob Blake have planned and executed some, but not all, of their usual postseason meetings, reviews and analysis during the NHL break, and would be prepared for what would come next.
Preparations for the design and free agency would normally be the following, the two main items on each team’s off-season to-do lists, but each remained in limbo. The draft, which was originally scheduled to run from June 26-27, was postponed. The free agency established on July 1 is also expected to be delayed.
The Ducks and Kings would join the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabers pending a decision on the date and format of the deferred lottery to determine the design order. It was originally scheduled for April 9.
It was speculated that the lottery and the draw itself would be held before the game resumed, but there was a backlash from many general managers who did not want a team to win the lottery for the best overall choice and then went on to win the Stanley Cup.
There was also some disagreement about the game resuming.
On Friday, the league and its players were expected to agree to a format that would give a goodbye to the top four teams in each conference, while the following eight clubs would play a best-of-5 playoff to advance to the next round .
The top teams played a three-game round-robin for seeding purposes.
The last 16 teams would then handle things in the usual best-of-7, four-round format.
It was unclear when and where the matches would take place.
Fans would be banned from the arenas and practice areas.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that on Monday, eight or nine cities were competing to serve as host cities. The list is narrowed to four or maybe two, where the teams have their headquarters and the games are played in one central location.
Edmonton and Las Vegas are considered the top candidates for hosting Western Conference games, mainly due to the proximity of hotel rooms, restaurants and other facilities to their arenas. Toronto, Canada’s media capital, could be one of the hub cities of the Eastern Conference.
COVID-19 testing and contract tracking are essential for any return to the ice.
“I don’t think anyone has a fixed schedule, especially now in North America,” Bettman said during a conversation with business leaders, according to a story on NHL.com. “We’ve been working really hard since taking the break on March 12th to ensure that whatever the timing, whatever the order, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, we are able to implement one or all of these options. There is still a lot of uncertainty. ”