There seems to be a plan in the works for the NHL to return! It’s going to be weird and a lot of people aren’t going to like it, but hockey could be back soon. I’ll give my thoughts on the proposed plan as well as a few other notable hockey announcements from the past week. I’ll also deliver some takes that are strictly derived from being bored on Twitter. Let me know what you think!
1. Whispers of a 24-Team Return Grow Louder
Over the weekend, NHL reporters published a series of articles in The Athletic about the progress of the Return to Play committee. The first indicates what that return could look like. The second provides a few more updates.
It’s the format laid out in the first article that speaks to the potential playoff format. The first article, written by Scott Burnside, highlights a potential 24-team tournament based in four hub cities. The top six teams in each division would play and the remaining seven teams would not finish their season. This expanded playoff format would allow teams that were in the playoff hunt to have a chance to advance further. By including more than the traditional 16 teams, it gives the league a chance to make more money by playing more games.
Here are the other notable points from Burnside’s article that detail the structure of this proposed idea:
- Up to three weeks of on-ice training, prior to games being played.
- The playoff tournament would start with a round-robin lead-in to the playoffs.
- Each team would play the other five teams in their group once.
- This would take eight or nine days with zero travel.
- The top two teams in each divisional group would get a bye.
- The top teams would be decided “using points percentage from the round-robin combined with the regular-season points percentage.”
- The bottom four teams would play “a best-of-three series to create the traditional 16-team playoff field with the third-place teams playing the sixth-place teams, and fourth- and fifth-place teams facing off.”
I think this is an interesting and feasible idea. I like how this model would place importance on divisional success. Allowing the teams that succeeded in the mini-tournament to have to prove it against teams in their own division. I think it’s a smart idea to use a formula based on points percentage and the results from the mini-tournament to decide seeding. It ensures that the results from the 70 or so games each team played up until this point are taken into account and it gives some credence to how teams look right now.
I think it’s more than fair to include the few teams that would be on the outside looking in of the traditional playoff format, too. Are all those teams (cough the Blackhawks) worthy of playing meaningful games again? No. But, it ensures that the teams on the bubble, like the Cancuks, Rangers, etc., at least have a shot to make the playoffs. Just as they would if they got to play the remaining 10-12 games left on their schedule.
I think this format can work. It would suck to not have fans, but I would still watch. I also won’t hold this against the Stanley Cup winner. Stanley Cups were hosted in seasons with war, lockouts, and other crazy things. If anything, this will allow us to have closure with the memorable 2019-20 season.
2. Hemsky Retires
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Ales Hemsky announced that he would hang up his skates last week. The 36-year-old winger played 15 seasons in the NHL with the Oilers, Stars, Senators, and Canadiens. Hemsky spent the bulk of his career with the Oilers, who he helped to the 2006 Stanley Cup final. He last played in the NHL with Montreal during the 2017-18 seasons.
He finished his career with 142 goals and 477 points. Although his counting stats don’t stand out, Hemsky’s skill was great. His highlight reel is just as good, if not better than most of his peers. Check out some of his best goals below.
He made not have made the biggest mark on the NHL. Hemsky still made plays that made my draw drop. Congrats to him on his retirement.
3. Twitter Boredom Leads to Content
So I was very bored last week and I stumbled across this tweet…
hot take: best goal ever pic.twitter.com/wFfrmRiDA7
— march (@ffsPrice) May 16, 2020
I don’t follow the user nor do I remember why it showed up on my timeline. I thought I would watch the video anyway. What else do I have to do? I could tell it was an old highlight, probably from 2006 or 2007. Once number 61 got the puck I knew it was Rick Nash. What proceeded to happen next was mesmerizing. Nash dekes two defenders out of their skates and scores one of the best goals I’ve ever seen. I disagree with @ffsPrice because I don’t think this is too much of a hot take.
To be honest I’m shocked I don’t remember this goal. As a kid, I watched SportsCenter every morning before school, and every night after school. I don’t remember seeing this goal. I’m glad @ffsPrice tweeted this out so I could consume some great hockey content during quarantine. It’s also a nice reminder that Rick Nash was filthy in his heyday in Columbus.
4. Domi Wants to Stay in Montreal
Max Domi is one of the many players facing restricted free agency whenever the NHL offseason begins. In a report published by the NHL last week, Domi was quoted as saying,
“All I can really tell you is that I want to be with Montreal, I want to be here,” Domi said Thursday. “I love playing in Montreal, I love my teammates, I love this team and I love the city. My hope is to play here for a long time. That’s never changed since the time I played my first game here. That’s that.”
That’s good news for Canadiens fans as Domi has been one of their most productive skaters during his time in Montreal. The 25-year-old was traded for Alex Galchenyuk before last season after three moderately productive seasons in Arizona. Domi broke out last year scoring 28 goals and adding another 44 assists. His 72 points shattered his previous career-high of 45. He hasn’t been as productive this season with only 44 points.
Still, Domi is one of the few building blocks the Canadiens have tasked with creating offense in front of Carey Price. I’d expect Domi to net a contract somewhere in the $5.5-$7 million AAV. He has shown he’s worth the north end of that range yet. But, he has a great deal of potential and I’d expect the Canadiens to pay him accordingly.
5. Breakout Star: J.T. Miller
Before the season, J.T. Miller was traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Vancouver Canucks. At the time, Miller was looked at as a good forward who could score points. Definitely someone who slots in the top-six. With Brayden Point’s contract looming, the Lightning dished him to Vancouver to free up cap space. Many pundits, including me (though I’m not a pundit) ripped Vancouver for trading for Miller. Not because of who is he as a player, but because of his contract. Miller was entering the second year of a five-year, $26 million contract. Vancouver was seen as a team on the rise, and Miller’s cap hit would hurt their ability to sign free agents and inevitably pay players like Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.
Miller has proved everyone wrong this season. In 69 games, he’s tied with Pettersson for the team lead in goals with 27, he’s also leading the team in points with 72. His previous career-high in points is 56, which he notched with the New York Rangers in the 2016-17 season. At first, I chalked it up to playing with guys like Pettersson and Boeser. Then I remembered he played with the record-setting Lightning last year. After checking the stats again, Miller is playing an average of four more minutes a game this year. It’s clear that the extra ice-time and talent around him was the catalyst for his improvement.
The 27-year-old Miller has come into his own this season. Now his contract looks like a bargain. And if he can keep this up, the Canucks are going to be dangerous as hell in the next few seasons as their crop of young talent continues to develop. ■