The Steps To Return To Action


Two months ago we saw the NHL season come to a halt and now we might have a true guideline to get play re-started this summer.

Commissioner Gary Bettman appeared live on Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid to announce what’s happening to the regular season, the set up of the playoffs, and much more. There was a lot of info that came our way so to make things easier I’ll do my best right here to get into the main points on this topic.

The Regular Season is over

That’s it for formal regular season play when it comes to the 2019-20 season. The standings and stats that you see before you are finalized. The Edmonton Oilers end the year with a record of 37-25-9 for 83 points. Leon Draisaitl will take Art Ross Trophy for the first time in his career with 110 points, Connor McDavid ends the year right behind him in points with 97.

The Regular season yes, it’s over and yes the Oilers are moving past the regular season for the first time since 2016-17 but on if this can be considered a playoff appearance is still somewhat up in the air. Yes, you heard correct, this goes straight into my next point on the matter.

24 Teams, 8 team play in round before the main 16 team playoffs.

Alex talked about it earlier this week and it’s now official. The top 12 teams in the Eastern Conference and top 12 teams in the Western Conference moving to the next step of the season. The top four teams in each conference will battle in a round-robin format to determine seeding for the remaining 16 teams moving on to the formal first round. The rest of the teams in each conference will take part in a best of 5 play-in/qualifying series to move into what we know as the first round.

What does this mean for the Oilers? With the Oilers being the 5th seed in the Western Conference they’ll be taking on the 12th seed Chicago Blackhawks.

In their three meetings this season, the home team has won every game, Chicago taking their games 3-1 and 4-1 at the United Center while the Oilers won the lone game at Rogers Place 5-3.

Historically this is the first time that these two teams will meet in a formal series since the 1992 playoffs. In 1991-92 they met in the Campbell Conference Finals with the Blackhawks moving on to face Pittsburgh that that year’s Final.

The NHL is still in discussion on if these qualifying games will be considered to be a formal part of the playoffs for the purposes of stat keeping.

Hub Cities?

There are still quite a few cities in play to host the bulk of what is left of the season. We do know that the league will use only two and not four hub cities, one for teams in the east and one for teams in the west is the intended goal.

Edmonton is still in the mix as well as Toronto, Vancouver, LA, Chicago, Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Dallas.

Why do I say bulk? Bettman while speaking to NBC’s Mike Tirico left the door open to the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals happening in home markets with fans. They should continue the plan without fans.

The decision on which markets will be named the hub cities will not be determined for another three to four weeks.

What about the Draft Lottery and Draft?

Remember the talk of the draft happening before the season is over? Yeah that’s not happening. The formal draft lottery will take place on June 26th with a draft following after the season.

The draft lottery will include the teams not continuing the season as well as the teams knocked out in the play-in round.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie breaks it down in a better way than I can in this thread after this original tweet.

The Timeline?

There’s no firm timeline for things to progress but here’s what we can showcase as rough guides for ending this season.

Phase 1: Since the shutdown on March 12th teams in isolation.

Phase 2: At the start of June teams will return to facilities for small training in groups.

Phase 3: After guidance from local authorities at the start of July they’ll be a formal training camp for teams.

Phase 4: The final step, 24 teams in the hub cities and the resumption of play, no solid month yet to make this happen.

That’s a ton of information to process without a confirmed timeline. There are still players who may not feel comfortable about playing in these situations. There are still questions on testing. What we do know, of the Big Four leagues, the NHL is the most adamant, one way or another having the end to its season being determined on the ice and not in a boardroom.