It could be another strange year for the Vegas Golden Knights.
We are in the depths of the off-season right now but the Vegas Golden Knights and the rest of the National Hockey League are still waiting on a concrete start date for the 2020-21 season.
We did learn some significant news on Thursday after the NHL postponed both the 2021 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Florida and the 2021 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, due to be played by the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues.
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It was disappointing news given that both events are highlights of the NHL calendar, particularly the Winter Classic which is always a must-watch on New Year’s Day.
However, the NHL did stress that they are still committed to and hopeful of dropping the puck on the 2020-21 regular season on Jan. 1, 2021.
There’s still a hell of a lot up in the air, though, and we are going to attempt to wade through all the looming questions facing the Golden Knights and the NHL and then take a look at what shape the 2020-21 NHL season might take.
Let’s delve right in…
Sprint to the finish line
What we know so far is that the National Hockey League is hopeful of dropping the puck on the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1, 2021. That is a stance they are sticking to right now and we will see if that proves to be optimistic or not.
The league has also stressed that they fully intend to play a full 82-game schedule in 2020-21, although there are a few caveats at play here.
Firstly, it is going to be tight but possible to play a full schedule if the season does indeed start on Jan. 1, 2021, but that’s without any further complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, the summer Olympics in Tokyo are slated to start on July. 23, 2021 and the NBC will have to clear their schedule by then in order to accommodate the Games.
As a result, the NHL will have to make sure that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are concluded by July. 22, 2021 at the very latest, leaving the league with little room for error when it comes to fitting a full 82-game schedule and the postseason in.
It took 64 days to complete the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including travel dates, so with that in mind the postseason would have to start by May. 20, 2021. If that was the case, then the Golden Knights and the other 30 franchises would have to navigate 82 games in just 138 days.
That would be a gruelling and incredibly taxing war of attrition for all teams, and that isn’t taking into account any potential complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon it seems.
The most realistic option could be a similar path to the one the NBA is on the cusp of heading down for the 2020-21 season. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA is planning on a 72-game schedule that will begin on Dec. 22, 2020.
Should the NHL look to adopt that plan too, then it isn’t a bad Plan B given that it is only 10 games short of a traditional regular-season schedule, and it would give the league some wriggle room if they needed to re-arrange any games should there be a COVID-19 outbreak in a particular State.
Expanded rosters will have to be introduced given the amount of games that will be played in a short amount of time, and it could be that the league allow teams to have a Taxi Squad as they did for the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs inside The Bubble.
Overall, everything is bound to be on the table for the NHL with a decision on a start date for the 2020-21 season needed soon, but the Golden Knights should prepare for a congested schedule no matter what happens.
Also, the Golden Knights might have to get used to a new-look division too…