We know the teams. We know the cities. Now we know the when.
The 2019-20 NHL season is officially set to resume on August 1 with the start of the play-in round to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ending what will have been a nearly fourth month pause in the season.
It is an unprecedented set up and situation, and while I still have my doubts that we will actually see the season resume we should at least talk about it now that the schedule is set.
So with that said, let us ponder a few Penguins related questions about the season restart.
Is anyone going to opt out?
This is a big one, and a potential game changer for any team in the playoffs.
NHL players have until today to decide on whether or not they are going to participate in the season restart or if they want to opt out.
We have already seen a number of MLB and NBA players decide they do not want to take the risk, and I do not blame anyone that does not want to go through this right now. Not only being isolated in a “bubble” for potentially months at a time with daily tests and the extreme safety measures being put into place, but also the simple fact that there is a significant risk involved.
Risk for the players. Their families. Everyone involved. There is, after all, still a global pandemic going on. NHL locker rooms are germ factories even under normal circumstances. Heaven help them now.
I honestly am a little uneasy with the fact players have to make a decision this far in advance because of how much circumstances can change in a short period of time. Maybe a player that is reasonably comfortable now will not be when the situation changes in a month.
Will anyone just look at the risks right now and say “the hell with this?”
The hot take machine is already getting warmed up in the event it happens.
Murray or Jarry?
I almost hate including this question simply because it is such low-hanging fruit and it is the question that EVERYONE will be trying to make into a thing.
... It is a legitimate question.
On one hand, Matt Murray is the guy that has two Stanley Cup rings on his fingers and has already proven he can backstop the team to a championship.
On the other hand, looking at objective numbers and the actual on ice performances this season it is hard to argue that he has consistently played like that championship winning goalie.
Based on their overall numbers, Jarry has been the better player this season.
But he was also starting to cool off considerably before the season was paused and neither player was really making a strong argument to solidify the position.
This position is going to be the X-factor. A decision is going to have to be made, and right now I am not sure how you do that with no warmup games before the important ones start.
It is pretty much going to be a leap of faith for Mike Sullivan.
The rust factor
No, not Bryan. I mean actual rust given that it will be four months between games. That is pretty much an entire offseason, and they are going from that directly into the most important and high intensity games there are.
That is going to be true for everybody, including the players that were healthy and playing at the time of the pause.
It is going to be especially true for a player like Jake Guentzel that has not played in a game since December. Think about that: The last time Guentzel played in an NHL game this hellscape of a calendar year had not even started yet.
How is that layoff going to impact everyone?
How tempting is the possibility of the No. 1 overall pick for you as a fan?
Look, the players are not going to tank it.
The coaches are not going to tank it.
The front office and organization is all-in on winning another Stanley Cup.
That is the goal, that is what they play for, that is how they are wired mentally and where their focus is going to be. We all know that.
But we are not players, or coaches, or executives. What we think does not matter. So, let’s discuss it: How mad woud you REALLY be if the Penguins lost to the Canadiens in the play-in round and ended up with a 12.5 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft?
If you are a Penguins fan older than the age of, I don’t know, 20, you have experienced three Stanley Cups and four Stanley Cup Final appearances in a decade. That is a lot. This makeshift tournament has so many wild variables at play that it is probably not going to be held in as high of a regard as a championship in any other year. The Penguins are not going to be in a position to get the top pick in the near future and a 12.5 percent chance at it right now, while you still have a window with your current superstars wide open in front of you, is certainly an intriguing possibility. Especially since it could leave you with a franchise player already in place to carry the torch when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin retire.
Admit it: You are thinking it, even if only for a little bit. It is tempting to root for. Very tempting.