Realignment likely in the cards
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How does everyone feel about how, when or if there will be a 2021 NHL season? Yes, this COVID-19 pandemic definitely sucks, and there seems no end to it.
It’s why league officials are trying to figure out how to get this done the safest way possible, including taking a page from Major League Baseball’s playbook.
(The NBA has settled on a Dec. 22 start for the 2020-21 season.)
Temporary realignment, short-term hubs, two- and three-game “series”, and a shortened schedule if the season actually begins New Year’s Day and doesn’t extend too far into the summer are options, which would have to be approved by the players.
Meantime, the Colorado Eagles have released photos of their new uniforms:
The league’s Return to Play system worked extremely well for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with hub bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto, but that wouldn’t work for a regular season.
"You'll play for 10 to 12 days," commissioner Gary Bettman said in a virtual panel discussion that included MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. "You'll play a bunch of games without traveling, you'll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We'll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need.
"It's not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent practical and sensible. And so that's one of the things that we're talking about."
I tried to come up with some possible divisions – definitely not perfect -- for the 2021 season (keeping regular divisions as intact as possible along with travel, assuming no travel between U.S. and Canada):
Atlantic Division: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals
Metropolitan Division: Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins
Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues
Pacific Division: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights
Canadian Division: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks
"While crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is an issue, we're also seeing within the United States limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states,” Bettman said.
As for travel:
“We may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, and that may make sense, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense.”
No, it doesn’t.
“While we're in the middle of working on our return to play as well, which I hope to have put to bed soon, our goal is to get back to a normal schedule starting (next) fall and being done before July on a longer-term basis. That is the goal."