Vegas Golden Knight owner Bill Foley may have let it slip that the NHL is planning to make a temporary change to the four divisions for next season in order to work around the closed border between the United States and Canada. The plan is for a fully Canadian division, with all seven teams around the country to play each other.
Further speculation suggests that the three AHL affiliates of Canadian teams in the US (Utica, Stockton, and Bakersfield) will be moved up to Canada and play in their NHL arenas. This will make call ups easier and will be part of mimicking the NHL’s divisions in the AHL.
This is all a result of the NHL needing to create a season without a bubble. The league needs fans in the arena, even at lesser capacity in order to make a reasonable amount of revenue. As an aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more alternative jerseys in order to increase that revenue stream.
But getting back to the NHL divisions, what will the Canadian Division look like and what will it mean for the rest of the league? I’ve made a guess, let me know how off I am!
- Montreal Canadiens
- Ottawa Senators
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets
- Calgary Flames
- Edmonton Oilers
- Vancouver Canucks
The seven Canadian teams all hate each other’s guts. They all want to be Canada’s favourite team, and they all hate each other, but mostly Toronto. No visa troubles. There will be a lot of travel and a change of timezones, but I’m sure they’ll get over it.
- Anaheim Ducks
- Los Angeles Kings
- San Jose Sharks
- Arizona Coyotes
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Colorado Avalanche
- Minnesota Wild
- Dallas Stars
Most of the Pacific is still here, except the three bitter rivals in Colorado, Minnesota, and Dallas join the group. Added bonus that Vegas, Colorado, and Dallas can all reunite from their Western Conference sprint to the Finals. They’re all mostly in the same time zone, the ones in the MT timezone usually play games at 8pm for the 7pm PT audience anyway. Minnesota in the Central will be the biggest issue but I couldn’t split them up from Colorado, they seriously hate each other.
- St. Louis Blues
- Nashville Predators
- Detroit Red Wings
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Florida Panthers
- Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning
I’ve always wanted reunite Chicago and Detroit, an original Central Divisional rival, always on NBC on Sunday afternoons. Columbus was over there back in the day too. Nashville and St. Louis have become good rivals of Chicago too. The NHL will obviously be thinking about their wallets so getting as many rivalries together is important. Carolina, Florida, and Tampa can join the group as a former South East trio of enemies. Combining the Midwest and Southeast together seems the most logical.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Philadelphia Flyers
- New York Rangers
- New York Islanders
- New Jersey Devils
- Washington Capitals
- Boston Bruins
- Buffalo Sabres
All of these teams are in the Northeast area, and while we lose somewhat closeby cities in Carolina and Columbus from the group, Buffalo and Boston really didn’t have anywhere else to go. These teams can all travel by bus together, AHL style, no one’s more than a few hours from each other.
While I expect the Canadian Division to be completely locked off from the rest of the league, it might not be the case within the USA. Surely teams will be able to intermingle between divisions and play each other, at least a few times. It all depends on the COVID-19 risk and how things will have to work if, and possibly when, players and teams get infected with the virus. If the league wants to isolate each division from each other so that if they catch a spread within one division, it doesn’t spread to the rest of the league. Siloing teams into smaller and smaller groups is the recommended method that travelling sports have implemented to varying degrees of success. In Formula 1, for example, within the large bubble, each team is isolated from each other, and different departments of each team (engineers, drivers, tacticians, pr) are siloed into separate groups.
And then the question of transactions comes up. What if a player gets traded? Waived? Logically, they would probably have to isolate and get special permission to cross the border before joining their next team. That lag will be important to manage.
In the ECHL, they have created a schedule that starts in December with confirmed dates for about a month. Presumably there will be a pause in order to provide a buffer zone for postponed games and keep games as far apart as possible in order to catch outbreaks. Tracey has been on top of this story all offseason and will have a post this morning to go over it in more detail. Obviously the NHL will be keeping tabs on this plan and will see what they can learn.
Personally, I still think two five-game series against each divisional rival (one home and one away) that takes place every two weeks gets a 70-game season done in about 14 or so weeks (two on, two off).
Feel free to call me, Gary.
Other North American Leagues
Justin covered the Lightning’s prospects who are actually playing games yesterday. He did great work and I would like to extend and look at the leagues that are running or starting up, particularly the ones in North America.
The QMJHL in Quebec started their season in October, but as Canada hit their second wave, a lot of teams have been forced to shut down again as they’ve been put under a red zone of spread. Atlantic Canada is still going mostly normally, but from the outside it really looks like things are falling apart.
So, the East & West Divisions will suspend play for two weeks. Maritimes Division will play on for now. https://t.co/kvJXRxp2mD— Lauren Kelly (@laurkelly24) October 14, 2020
The OHL and WHL both plan to start following the World Juniors Championship in late-December, early-January in Edmonton. Like the ECHL, they’ll likely have games on the weekends with travel. A wrinkle to this plan is that the kids playing are all going to school as well. Whether they’ll get to do it virtually or not is still up in the air.
WHL Commish Ron Robison on media call this afternoon:— Trevor Redden (@Trevor_Redden) October 15, 2020
Starts by clarifying Jan. 8 is not a place holder.
“That is a firm start date, not a tentative date. As we work with jurisdictions on final touches…we will continue to do that and finalize details around our schedule.”
A bad OHL omen: Quebec league shutters teams amid COVID-19 cases https://t.co/5UYRop45gP— SudburyStar (@SudburyStar) October 15, 2020
University Sports in Canada is not going to run in any form, including hockey, until at least March 2021.
U SPORTS: Per sources, OUA coaches and players have been told of the cancellation of all sanctioned sports and championships until March 2021.— Ben Steiner (@BenSteiner00) October 15, 2020
The OUA could not confirm but is expected to make an announcement.#USPORTS
The USHL will start a 24-week regular season of 56 game starting in November. The 14 teams will travel to each other’s arenas. This plan also includes a preseason that starts this weekend. Games will be twice a week from Thursday to Sunday.
The NCAA is trying for a November start, but it doesn’t look likely.
It goes without saying, but the more I researched about these different programs, the more suspect I became that they’ll work in a safe and feasible manner. Especially the QMJHL, USHL, and NCAA. We don’t have the OHL and WHL plans so I guess that’s why they’re excluded.
Once again, let’s remember how quickly this can spread, especially in a hockey rink.
An adult rec hockey game in Tampa in June.— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) October 15, 2020
The U.S. CDC notes no cloth masks in locker room or on team benches, where players come off ice while still breathing heavily.
Five days after game, 13 players test positive for Covid-19. https://t.co/13Ys3XwZ9r
Alex Killorn having some steak and soup out of the Cup!
Well, it happened! Lobster Bisque, round two, 16 years later with @Akillorn19 ! ⚡️ Further proving that Chef Hab is and the @tblightning are amazing! Let’s #gobolts ! #thirstythursday #bernsway #stanleycup pic.twitter.com/kGdWu2lTt6— Bern's Steak House (@bernssteakhouse) October 15, 2020
Evgeni Dadonov signed a three-year, $5 million AAV contract.
Alexander Georgiev signed a two-year extension, negating arbitration.
NY #Rangers have signed G Alex Georgiev— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) October 15, 2020
2 year / $2,425,000 deal
Georgiev had filed for arbitration and was scheduled to go before an arbitrator on Oct 31.https://t.co/l6IITZSoI6
Anthony DeAngelo signed a two-year deal, also avoiding arbitration. He had the highest on-ice shooting percentage in the league, so this contract will definitely go well. He is a very mediocre defenseman who can’t defend.
Two years, $4.8 M AAV for Tony DeAngelo https://t.co/Sbeu4zz8q7— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 16, 2020
Mike Hoffman has still not signed a contract and is getting desperate. You may or may not remember the scandal that got him kicked out of Ottawa...
Hearing Mike Hoffman is considering a one-year deal for his next NHL home. If he does that, there’s a good chance that he and Taylor Hall head to market next summer as the leaders in goals per game for all free agents 31 and under. Déjà vu all over again.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 16, 2020
Matt Martin is attempting to convince Lou Lamoriello he is high in demand.