Fans have been without Montreal Canadiens hockey for some time, and with the NHLPA voting on the proposed return plan, the hiatus may be over soon.
It’s been over 10 weeks since the Montreal Canadiens played their last game. Since then, there have been signings, debates, and a plan in progress to bring the NHL back. There is currently action taking place for professional hockey to return to North America, one that fans have been decisive about as it’ll have the Habs in the playoffs to close out the 2019-20 season.
The 24-team format is a given, and the details of how everything is going to play out hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s been fine-tuned.
The plan on the table is for teams to be ranked based on points percentage with 24 teams getting in. The Habs sneak in as the 24th seed with a .500 points percentage. Instead of having the usual four rounds of playoff hockey leading to a Stanley Cup champion where teams are seeded based on their division, the ranking will be based on the entire conference with an initial play-in round.
The top four teams in each conference automatically advance while the remaining 16 (8 in each conference) play in best-of-three series to decide who moves on. According to this format, the Montreal Canadiens would take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This was one of the series we discussed in a previous post, and with that being the format on the table, it seems that’ll be the likely route.
As we speak, the NHLPA Executive Board, made up of 31 player representatives, is voting on whether to accept this format per Pierre Lebrun.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie shed some more light on the matter, saying the call conference call with the NHLPA was “spirited” and “an emotional issue.”
Another thing to come out from McKenzie was his understanding that others believe Donald Fehr, who is the executive director of the NHLPA, may or will get the go-ahead to accept the format.
As the Bob Father mentions in his tweet, it’s not going to be easy even if there are enough votes to pass the plan. The return of hockey has several factors that fall within it both on and off the ice.
The Montreal Canadiens are involved in one of them as teams are concerned about having to face a healthy Carey Price. Who knows what can happen. The hockey is going to be far from structured and will likely be closer to preseason play, where it’s all goals and sloppy defence triggering a lot of reliance on goaltending. Price can be a massive difference-maker for the Habs in the Eastern Conference.
At the same time, teams who were established to be in a playoff spot are likely annoyed with this play-in option. Take the Edmonton Oilers, for example. The Oilers finally managed to be a good team this season and were on their way to the playoffs. Now they have to play for the right to be in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks who were six points out. The same could be said about the Penguins who have 15 points on the Habs.
There’s also the isolation route of all this, which Montreal’s Phillip Danault spoke about weeks ago. For this to happen, there will be no fans and players will likely have to be away from home for the duration of the playoffs. And that’s not only players, that goes for the coaching staff and arena workers as well.
That’s a big thing to ask people not to see their families for that long. Sure, you could say, “You gotta do what you gotta do,” but these are still people we’re talking about.
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According to Lebrun, we’ll know what the results are by tomorrow night, and then the next phase of planning can begin. But there are still things ahead.