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What comes next after the NHL season is suspended?

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A look at some “best case scenarios” with some word of warning that the future remains very unknown for the NHL’s 2019-20 season.

Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

One day after the NHL took the unusual step to suspend the regular season, the obvious questions of what come next, and when will it happen are the biggest.

The thing is, right now no one knows. Anyone who says they do is lying. We may have educated (or uneducated) guesses or hopes, but this is uncharted water for professional sports and society in general.

But, back to hockey as far as what comes next and when, some information is starting to form.

James Mirtle from The Athletic laid it out as such:

The suspension almost certainly marks the end of the NHL’s 2019-20 regular season, leaving 189 games — or 15 percent of the season — unplayed. If so, the year would end with eight teams having played 71 games, 11 playing 70, 10 with 69 games, and another two with just 68.

The best-case scenario here, according to several sources contacted by The Athletic late Wednesday night, would mean the shutdown lasts only three weeks and the NHL playoffs would begin essentially as scheduled in mid-April. Teams would be ranked by points percentage and given playoff berths as if the season had, in fact, ended on March 11 instead of April 4.

That would be a tough break for teams like Columbus, Florida, Winnipeg and Minnesota, who could miss the postseason by tiny margins.

As Mirle also points out, “cancelling the postseason altogether isn’t out of the question”, so we’ve got the full package of options from a minimal 2-3 week “pause” of the season on one end of the spectrum, to a complete season shutdown on the other end. And pretty much every other possibility in between.

Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan also have a very informative article that lays out details about the situation, including details about what could happen with next year’s salary cap. There is a very similar “best case scenario” mentioned as well.

A source on the players’ side believes a “best-case” scenario would be a two- to three-week pause to the season; the continuation of the regular season for a few more games, though less than a complete 82; and then a truncated playoffs with shorter opening series. But if the NHL wanted to jump right into the playoffs, the only equitable way would be through using points percentage rather than point totals, as teams have played an unequal number of games (between 69 and 71).

However, a “best case” scenario might not be in the cards. No one is really sure what the situation will be like in two to three weeks, so that needs to be remembered as well. Though right now, it’s tough to forget.

Gary Bettman also can’t provide a lot of details, but my main takeaway from his comments is that the league certainly wants to resume the season and give out the Stanley Cup to a winner. But when and how that happens, again, is still very much up in the air and dependent on factors that are outside of everyone’s control at this point.

Commissioner Bettman stressed the NHL is taking a pause.

”I’m a little hesitant to use the word suspension, because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it’s safe and it’s prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded,” he said.

Asked how far into the summer the NHL was willing to push the schedule, Commissioner Bettman said, “That’s a question that I can’t answer right now. It’s something that I and my senior staff are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

”It’s going to evolve. We’re looking at all contingencies, and when the circumstances are right that we can play, then we’ll look at what we can do.

”My hope is that at some point we’ll get back to some normalcy, and that’s not just my hope for the NHL, and it’s not just my hope for all sports, it’s my hope for everything that’s going on.”

As far as things around here in this little corner of the internet, we’re going to keep trudging along through the unknown and hope you will join us! We’ll of course cover any and all news as far as the Penguins and the NHL goes as far as next steps and try to have a little fun along the way as we all sort of bide our time and wait to see when and what is next. It may be unknown but we’ll still try our best to keep bringing interesting and informative content each day to help try and scratch that itch about getting back to normal. Until then...