We’re right down in the rabbit hole when it comes to the NHL trying to salvage the 2019-20 season, and there are some interesting Vegas Golden Knights-related developments.
It has now been over two months since the entire sporting world, including the Vegas Golden Knights, was brought to a shuddering halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although there has been a lot of hope recently that sports could return at some point this summer.
The National Hockey League, along with Major League Baseball and the NBA, have been busy coming up with a bevy of ways in which they can bring their respective sports back in a safe and logistical way.
For NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has been resolute from day one in his desire to crown a Stanley Cup Champion in 2019-20, one of his biggest priorities has been ensuring that, no matter in what form the season comes back in, the integrity of the game remains intact.
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That is something we can all agree on.
As a result, a plethora of different ideas have been floated out and explored by the NHL, from bringing the regular season back to jumping straight into an expanded 24-team playoff format.
The latter proposal has really picked up a lot of steam in recent weeks, and we delved into that idea in more detail a while ago, which you can read here.
Expanding the postseason to 24 teams certainly provides an olive branch to those franchises who were on the cusp of playoff contention prior to the NHL going on hiatus in March.
For the likes of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, the Minnesota Wild and the Arizona Coyotes, they would be granted a second chance to extend their season by way of a play-in.
It would also mean that both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens sneak in, which seems a bit far-fetched and unfair for a couple of reasons.
For starters, the Blackhawks were clearly looking towards the future when they traded goalie Robin Lehner to the Golden Knights at the Trade Deadline, while good luck to any team who goes up against a recharged, refreshed, revitalized and fully healthy Carey Price for the Canadiens.
Then there is the other side of the coin and the downside that directly impacts the Golden Knights and the other top seeds.
Should the 24-team format get voted in, and it’s important to remember that nothing has been decided per NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly via The Athletic, then the Knights and the other top seeds would all get given a bye.
Now, in normal circumstances a bye can do a lot of good but, in the new world we live in, I don’t think the Golden Knights would want to be hanging around while other teams play having already been sat at home for the last two months.
Plus, with it looking likely in a 24-team format that Vegas would either play Nashville or Arizona, you have the added disadvantage that either the Predators or the Coyotes would be riding the wave of momentum after winning their play-in while the Knights would be coming in cold.
You can understand why some players wouldn’t want that and would instead prefer some regular-season games first in order to shake off the rink rust.
Per Friedman, you would put teams in Divisional Hubs with the Golden Knights in the Pacific Hub alongside the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames, the Vancouver Canucks, the Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild.
In a nutshell, the top six teams in each hub would make it through to the postseason, with a First-Round round robin format rewarding higher seeds with points handicaps.
I’m not exactly sure how that works when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, or if I’ve done it justice, but it is certainly outside-of-the-box thinking from Elliott.
And, again, all these different ideas you read at the moment are just ideas and there is no doubt that the Return To Play Committee, who met on Monday and then again on Tuesday, will be shifting through every single proposal and ironing out the many kinks that appear in each one.
But, as far as the Golden Knights are concerned, whether the regular season resumes or teams jump into a 24-team playoff format, they are in pretty good shape regardless and will probably be happy to just hit the ice again.
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the NHL has now trimmed down its list of potential hub cities to between 9-8 different franchises.
We explained the concept in full here but, as a refresher, if hockey returns this year then it is expected that games will be played across four NHL sites.
Vegas is still in the mix along with the likes of Edmonton, Minnesota, Toronto and Vancouver according to reports, and Sin City makes a lot of sense.
For starters, there are more than enough hotels to be able to spread teams out and adhere to the current social distancing rules and measures.
Given the infrastructure of Vegas and its ability to host big time events, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Golden Knights emerge as one of the four NHL host cities.
Plus, that would allow the Knights to play games on home ice at T-Mobile Arena which will be a huge advantage, even without the presence of fans to begin with.
Overall, it does seem we are nearing some concrete plans for the NHL to resume play this summer and, as always, we’ll strive to bring you the latest developments right here at Vegas Hockey Knight.