How Bruins would benefit from one floated NHL return plan

Matt Kalman
March 20, 2020 - 12:12 pm

Any consideration of what the NHL or any sport season will look like when fans in the U.S. and Canada are freed from their homes in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic should always including the disclaimer that no one knows anything.

There are too many unknown variable as this point, and there might not be anymore clarity for weeks or months.

But one idea for completing the 2019-20 NHL season was floated by insider Frank Seravalli on TSN this week, and it might be the type of plan that benefits the first-place Bruins.

Seravalli documented an idea that he said many players are sharing through group chats and texts. In it the NHL would hold short training camps in early July, which is usually the first full month of the league’s offseason. The regular season, which had about five weeks left would resume until the end of the month and with every team finishing with the same number of games played, but not necessarily 82.

The Stanley Cup playoffs, possibly in a truncated form in terms of games but still including 16 teams, would last through the end of September. At that point October would be the league’s offseason, with the draft and free agency. A condensed schedule that would still squeeze in all 82 games and a full playoffs would begin in November and possibly run as long as late June.

If you’re the Bruins, you have to like this idea better than the 24-team format that was being talked about a week earlier. In that scenario there would’ve been just a short training camp and then playoffs. There would be more downtime while some of the top teams in the league wait for the bottom teams stage few play-in games. No one wants to go from training camp mode to playoff mode against a team that’s already in playoff mode. The Bruins’ hard work from the regular season rise to the top of the standings could go for naught.

A few regular season games would allow every team to get sharp and ramp up to playoff-level hockey. Then the regular 16-team format would allow a team like the Bruins to be rewarded with the type of 1-8 first-round matchup they deserve. In the bigger picture, this format also makes sure teams that are out of the playoff picture, and wouldn’t even make the 24-team field, aren’t off for an inordinate amount of time compared to the playoff teams.

But the Bruins wouldn’t just benefit on the ice. A shorter free agent period between the end of the postseason, especially if they advance as deep as they expect to go, could give them an edge in their pursuit of unrestricted free agent defenseman Torey Krug. A normal summer gives a player more than two months to uproot his family and settle down elsewhere if he chooses to change cities. With less than a month to do so, the Bruins might have the inside track (if the potentially flat $81.5 million salary cap allows them to keep him) as opposed to teams in other cities.

We don’t know which plan will play out and we don’t know what other plans might come up. The NHL still has to decide what to do about its revenue-based salary cap, conditional draft picks and a whole lot of other issues. If things fall into place for the NHL to go with the plan Seravalli has been told about, the Bruins should definitely be in favor of it.

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