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Lightning Round: What do we know about the NHL’s plan for the 2020-21 season?

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I know that I know nothing

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

With one day before the last month of 2020, let’s take a quick look on how the situation is developing regarding the start of the 2020-21 regular season. The NHL is still targeting January 1 as the potential start date for next season, however given that the NHL and the NHLPA haven’t reached an agreement so far, this date will likely be postponed.

The uncertainty is also affecting the teams. The start of training camps hasn’t been announced either, although some of the teams has already begun preparations. For example, as Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward revealed to TSN, the team is preparing for initial date of January 1 [TSN]

“We’re moving ahead like there’s going to be [a season],” he said in an interview with TSN this week. “The league is definitely saying that there will be a season. So as a coach and as coaches of our team, our staff is doing an awful lot of work to make sure we’re prepared. Right now, we’re preparing as though it’s going to be January 1 until we hear otherwise.”

If the season starts on January 1, it’s probably already very late for the start of training camps. However, as Elliotte Friedman said on 31 thoughts podcast, the training camps could be very short this offseason and there’s also a possibility that the exhibition games will be cancelled this year, since the teams won’t be able to make money from selling tickets, there’s no need for them.

As Gary Bettman has previously announced, the league hopes to return with a full 82-game season with fans in arenas at some point. The NHL still hopes that COVID-19 vaccines will be available for the start of the season, however as an infectious diseases specialist Dr. Susy Hota from University Health Network in Toronto said, even in this case, it will take a take a while until the herd immunity is developed [CBC]

“In order for there to be some kind of a herd immunity effect from vaccination ... you still need about 85 per cent coverage in the population for it to really be helpful,” said Hota, who also is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto.

“I think we do have to mentally prepare ourselves, I’d say, for at least a year to try and roll out the vaccine and feel like you’ve got coverage to a point where it’s more protective on a population level.”

Per Statista.com, an average NHL team will lose about $1.5 million per game in ticket sales and revenues from selling food and beverage at home games. As Emily Caplan reported, some of the NHL team owners are not happy with the recent CBA extension and even voiced the idea that financially it will be better if this season won’t be played. In order to minimize the financial losses, the NHL recently presented Reverse Retro jersey campaign, however the impact will be very small. Another possibility to make up list revenue would be to expand the playoffs, although Gary Bettman personally never liked this idea.

As Elliotte Friedman also reported, the NHL asked the NHLPA for additional changes in existing CBA and this is so far the biggest disagreement between the league and its players [Sportsnet]

According to several sources, the league submitted two proposals. The first asked for changes solely to the upcoming season. Deferred compensation went to 20 per cent; escrow to 25. There were no other alterations.

The second asked for deferred compensation to be raised to 26 per cent for next season. Escrow was not touched until years four-to-six of the CBA, rising from six per cent to between 8.5 and nine.

“There were audible gasps when this was presented” on the NHLPA conference call, one player said. To understand the emotion, recognize that — to players — “escrow” is the dirtiest word in the dictionary. There’s nothing else even close.

The NHL’s position is simple: the CBA is a 50-50 revenue split, and COVID-related damages are more significant than what was projected even four months ago. There’s going to be a shortfall, and it must be addressed.

As for the organization of the season, the league is leaning towards the regional realignment of divisions and having short-term bubbles for next season due to the current Canadian travel restrictions, Hardev earlier wrote how it could look like [Raw Charge]

It sounds more and more obvious that the NHL is going to need to create a Canadian Division and put the rest of the NHL in smaller bubbles that are hyper-local with respect to proximity and COVID-19 situations.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, that could mean a season playing the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, and Nashville Predators. That’s five teams with a possible intermingling with the teams in the midwest and northeast to increase variety.

As for playoffs, according to Pierre LeBrun, the NHL is considering having a divisional playoffs to reduce travel costs [The Athletic]

The idea some have floated is that the top four teams in each division would make the playoffs, then it’s 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 in each division and a divisional final in the second round. The four division playoff winners would then meet in the league semifinals.

Lightning Links

The Orlando Solar Bears presented their roster for the 2020-21 season, the training camps are starting tonight.

As a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Community Heroes Program, the teams invited the people involved in this program to see the Cup.

A photo from Nikita Kucherov’s day with the Cup