Montreal Canadiens players and fans are waiting to find out what the league has planned for next season. They’ll probably follow NBA footsteps.
The Montreal Canadiens looked much better in the postseason than the regular season. A step forward by both Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi after the NHL returned to action in August made the Habs a completely different team.
We got to see them upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the play-in series and then perform well against the Philadelphia Flyers in the official first round of the playoffs.
It was nice to see the 2019-20 version of the Canadiens close out on a more positive note than the regular season which was highlighted by two eight game losing streaks. It just left us wondering when we would see the Habs again.
The NBA has a rumoured plan that made its way to twitter last night. Adrian Wojnarowski, who is basically the Bob McKenzie of basketball, said the NBA is planning on starting the 2020-21 season just before Christmas and they are looking to play 70-72 games instead of the usual 82. They are also going to have a play-in tournament to determine final playoff spots.
This should, in all likelihood, provide a blueprint for the NHL to follow for next season. Both basketball and hockey decided to host their 2020 postseason in a bubble environment and they got back into action at basically the same time in late July.
After walking in stride to end the 2019-20 season, why wouldn’t the two organizations do the same for next season?
If the NHL does follow these guidelines, we could be seeing hockey games right around New Year’s Day, and a slightly shortened regular season. Basketball teams can handle a slightly more compressed schedule than hockey teams, so maybe the NHL starts a week later, but only plays a 60 game regular season?
This would still allow for a lengthy regular season, and probably most important, the January 1 start date would allow the NHL to finish its postseason before the 2020 Summer Olympics which begin on July 23, 2021.
NBC has the contract for NHL games in the United States and they also broadcast the Olympics. That means, unless Gary Bettman wants the Stanley Cup Finals games being played at 6:00 A.M., he’s going to have to wrap it up before July 23. This would also allow for a normal start to the 2021-22 season.
The NBA is also looking to change their schedule so teams would play more series against other teams during the regular season. Much like baseball, NBA teams will roll into town and play each other two or three times in a row to greatly reduce travel during the season.
The NHL should definitely follow this idea as well. Instead of the Montreal Canadiens making two separate trips down to Florida, they could just head down south once, play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and Sunday and then take on the Florida Panthers on Monday and Wednesday.
This would make even more sense if travel across the border is still greatly restricted. If the league has to introduce a Canadian division of teams, it doesn’t make sense for teams to be flying across the country every couple of weeks. Instead, have the Edmonton Oilers show up in Montreal and play three games in four days. Then, when Montreal heads out west they can play the Vancouver Canucks three times in a row before heading to Winnipeg for three games with the Jets in four or five days.
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This would limit travel, but also allow the league to cram as many games in as quickly as possible. It makes sense, and if the NBA is planning on doing it, I’d fully expect the NHL to follow along.