On Tuesday, the NBA released the structure of their upcoming 2020-21 season. Much like the NHL, the premier basketball league in the world is looking to squeeze an entire season’s worth of games despite starting two months late. As the NHL works with the NHLPA to put together their season is there anything they can borrow from their rival league?
The NBA is going to have a First Half (running from December 22nd to March 4th) and a Second Half (running from March 11th to May 16th). An All-Star break will separate the two halves. Actual dates of games for the First Half will be released on December 1st while the league will wait until later into the season to announce the Second Half.
It’s not a bad way to about business. If there is anything we’ve learned from the two major sports that conducted regular seasons during the pandemic (MLB and NFL) there is a need for flexibility. If teams are going to travel, there is a better than zero chance some players are going to contract COVID-19 or be in contract with folks testing positive. Both baseball and football have had to reschedule games due to illnesses.
Not releasing the entire schedule up front gives the league the flexibility they need if a team has to shut down for a week due to multiple players having to go into quarantine. If the league is also contemplating playing all their games within re-aligned geographic divisions, rescheduling games won’t be too difficult.
One thing we can be rather certain of is that the NHL won’t have an All-Star break worked into their schedule. If they want to get in as many games as possible, stopping the regular season for a week doesn’t help. It also takes away a week that they could use to reschedule games.
The NBA also announced that they are adding play-in games to their post season. The seven seed will play the eight seed while the nine seed plays the tenth seed. The winner of the seven/eight game advances while the loser plays the winner of the nine/ten game. Winner of that game advances as well.
Commissioner (and Hall of Famer) Gary Bettman doesn’t seem especially thrilled about the idea of play-in games. Fans seem split on the idea. On one hand adding two teams per conference lessons the importance of the regular season a little bit. Having two-thirds of the teams in the league make the post season seems a bit much.
On the other hand, adding an additional round of playoffs (when there is an outside chance that fans could be in the building) could make up a bit of revenue for a league that desperately needs it. A three-game play-in series could be done in a week and give the higher seeds a chance to rest - something that will be a pretty enticing incentive following a condensed season.
The NBA is planning on having their teams play cross-conference games (2 per team) while having the bulk of their games within conference. It’s not likely the NHL will be able to follow that path. With a fair amount of teams residing north of a border that isn’t going to be open any time soon, It’s likely that most, if not all, games will be played within re-aligned divisions based on locations.
The league and the players union are working on these questions right now. However, if they truly want to start on January 1st, they have to start finding answers to those questions. Can the NBA provide some of those answers? We’ll see.
Cole Guttman was number 22 in our annual countdown of top players under 25. [Raw Charge]
In Guttman’s case, offensively he’s been good, but not elite. He’s sitting under a point per game. From what I have seen in the past, a forward in the NCAA ranks needs to be at least a point per game player to make the jump into the NHL ranks. And even then it’s not a guarantee.
Whenever the season does start, the action on the ice will be fun to watch. One of the enjoyable things about watching a season unfold is seeing which players take the next step forward in their career. Last season Mikhail Sergachev was one of those players that saw his career take a giant leap. So who could do that in the upcoming season? The folks over at Bleacher Report suggested seven players who might “break out” next season. Anthony Cirelli was one of them. [Bleacher Report]
Cirelli tied with Brayden Point for the Lightning lead in plus/minus with plus-28. He also led all their forwards in short-handed ice time (2:49) per game last season and was fourth among Bolts skaters in overtime ice time per game (1:11). That reflects the confidence head coach Jon Cooper has in his abilities during crucial situations.
The Athletic is running another fan confidence survey for the Lightning. How has the Cup run affected your thoughts on the organization? Is the cap crises dampening your joy? Go ahead and share your thoughts. [The Athletic]
What’s former Lightning playoff hero Alex Selivanov up to? I’m sure that’s a question that has been on your mind lately. The forward, who played 304 games for Tampa Bay in the late 1990s, is now a part of Lutz-based boutique sports agency, DNA Sports Management. Now living outside of Prague, Selivanov is their European talent scout as the small firm expands into the hockey market. He announced the agency’s first signings: Artur Karmashkov (defenseman), Ivan Veremchuk (goalie), and Yuri Zholobov (center).
The players were not drafted and spent most of their career in the Russian junior leagues. It appears the small agency is looking to find a space in the market with players that might have slipped the attention of bigger firms. The agency will most likely try to find the three players roster spots in the lower North American leagues with the hopes of working their way up to the ECHL and AHL.
Around the League
Pierre LeBrun shares the names he has heard are on the Return to Play committee for the players. No Lightning players were mentioned.
Players that I hear are on the Return to Play committee:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 17, 2020
David Backes, Darren Helm, David Savard, Justin Faulk, Lars Eller, Sam Gagner, Justin Abdelkader, Ian Cole, Zach Hyman, Ron Hainsey, Claude Giroux, Ryan Dzingel, Andrew Copp, Alex Biega, Chris Kreider, Mark Scheifele. https://t.co/wC73SwMf79
Other than scheduling, the biggest headache that the two sides are going to have to figure out is compensation. It seems that the opening bid has been filed as Larry Brooks is reporting that the NHL is asking for the players to defer another 13% of their 2020-21 salaries. It’s most likely an opening gambit as opposed to a hard line stance by the NHL and the owners since it’s so early in the negotiations. [NY Post]
This would be uniform and league-wide, if the players defer the additional 13 percent, they would be guaranteed 61.6 percent of their pay for 2020-21, with 23 percent due to be returned at later dates.
Bill Zito is putting together his management team in Sunrise. On Tuesday Brett Peterson was announced as the Assistant General Manager for the Panthers. He becomes the first Black AGM in league history. Prior to his new job, Peterson worked for the Wasserman Media Group, a sports agency based in California. [ESPN]
“His substantive hockey experience as a player, significant developmental and evaluation skills, and business acumen as a negotiator combine to form an elite skill set that is very difficult to find in our sport,” Zito said. “There are many who can excel in one of those disciplines, but few who excel in all three.”