We’re a month into the sports lockdown and there is no guarantee that the Vegas Golden Knights will get to attend to unfinished business this year.
Although it has felt much longer, it is now four weeks since the NHL pressed the pause button on the 2019-20 regular season, leaving the Vegas Golden Knights and their 30 other members in limbo.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened in that time, meaning that we may have to get used to an immediate future without any sports.
We penned our thoughts on Sunday in relation to why it could be time to accept that the 2019-20 regular season is done and dusted, although the NHL will rightfully take their time and consider all options on the table before making that dreaded call.
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However, after the NHL announced today that the self-quarantine period for players will now be extended by a further two weeks through April 30, the timeline for a return for hockey is shrinking by the day.
A bevy of high-profile players have stated their desire for some remnant of the regular season to return first, rather than just jumping straight into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That idea makes a lot of sense because, given that the postseason is a long and gruelling war of attrition, you can’t expect players to go from doing nothing to then suddenly engaging in all-out combat without getting hurt.
But, on the flip side of that argument, with each passing day comes the reality that the return of the 2019-20 NHL season will likely impact 2020-21.
Now, according to Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic, the NHL would be willing to delay the start of next season until November in order to play postseason hockey throughout the summer, with the 2020-21 playoffs stretching into late June.
Another aspect of the regular season returning this year is the fact that a number of teams were still battling to stamp their playoff ticket.
While the idea of stretching the field to 24 teams has been suggested, the NHL rightly wants to protect the intergreity of the Stanley Cup.
Enter the latest proposition.
Why rolling every #NHL team back to 68 games played might be the most fair and equitable way to determine the #StanleyCup playoff bracket, IF the regular season can’t be completed:https://t.co/83aaT8V7US pic.twitter.com/9NsnT9rRT0
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) April 8, 2020
According to Frank Seravalli of TSN, the National Hockey League could roll every team back to 68 games in order to determine the Stanley Cup Playoff bracket.
In doing so, not only would the NHL give themselves the opportunity to still crown a Stanley Cup champion while not impacting 2020-21, they would also ensure some level of fairness.
Because, by rolling every team back to 68 games, the same bubble teams would get in using that idea as they would if the most popular proposition of points percentage was used to determine the playoff field.
It would also eliminate the debate some teams could rage when it comes to the difference between points accumulated and points percentage.
What would it mean for the Vegas Golden Knights, though?
Well, as in most situations, the Golden Knights would still finish atop the Pacific Division, thus earning home-ice advantage in the playoffs, while they would only see three games go to waste having played 71 of their 82 fixtures prior to the NHL going on hiatus.
As a result of the 68-game rollback, the Golden Knights would face the Nashville Predators in what would be a tantalizing and mouthwatering First Round matchup.
With both T-Mobile Arena and Bridgestone Arena laying claim to being two of the loudest and most intense arenas in the entire NHL, coupled with the strengths of both teams’ rosters, all the ingredients are in the melting pot to produce a doozy of a matchup.
So, rolling back every team to 68 games wouldn’t really impact the Golden Knights at all, apart from robbing them of the opportunity to get some regular season games under their belt before going to war with the Predators.
It would have much more of a gloomy impact on teams like the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who would all miss out on the postseason having put themselves in a great situation prior to the current hiatus.
However, out of all the suggestions being floated around, this one seems to carry a lot of weight and keeping it at 16 teams would ensure the integrity of the Stanley Cup remains intact.
Of course, the NHL still has a lot to work out including where hockey would be played, and whether North Dakota could host 16 teams and a couple of months of heated playoff battle remains to be seen.
But, should the league go ahead and roll every team back to 68 games, then the Vegas Golden Knights would still get to claim their second Division crown in three years while boasting home-ice advantage in the postseason.