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Lightning Round: Some thoughts on a new NHL format and its possible consequences

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Also an early look at the Lighting postseason roster.

Edmonton Oilers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

On Thursday, the Athletic published a piece discussing why the new summer playoff schedule may become a normal timeline in the NHL. It’s responding to some concerns that since you’ve played one season into October, it would probably need another global pandemic to return into regular October-to-June schedule.

If the 2020-21 season begins Jan. 1 and includes a full 82 games and playoffs, the earliest it could plausibly conclude would be sometime in August. (And good luck trying to fit in anything like the Olympics, bye weeks or the All-Star break.)

If the 2021 Stanley Cup is awarded in August, the earliest the NHL could then contemplate playing the next season would be in late November, which would inch the calendar forward a month or so. Even in that scenario, there would theoretically be playoff games played into July for years.

On the other side, it could lead to more systematic problems. In this scenario, other North American hockey leagues should follow the NHL steps. The NHL teams need access to the AHL players during the season and it’s in their best interest that the AHL have a schedule adjusted to the NHL’s one. And that’s not even mentioning that many prospects attend training camp ahead of the regular season, which by the new format would start somewhere in December. The same with the development camp which is usually held right after the NHL Draft.

Another issue is players coming from European leagues. Every hockey league in Europe has already cancelled their 2019-20 seasons and are preparing for return by their regular schedule. For players who already signed a new contract with an NHL team, it would mean staying without hockey for almost nine months, given that next season is starting in January and NHL teams are not allowed to sign new players for the rest of the current season. Remember your favourite prospect from the KHL who is supposed to be a new leader of your franchise but stuck in Russia for too long? He might never come to play in North America if this becomes a normal thing.

The next reason to be concerned are international tournaments. The World Championship usually takes place in May and it’s already being criticized for the absence of the biggest NHL stars who are either still playing in the playoffs or taking a rest after exhausting 82-game regular season. With a new format, we can probably forget about NHL players at the Worlds, unless the IIHF find a way to adapt to a new timeline. But what about the Olympics? I’ve always been a fan of idea of moving the hockey tournament to the Summer Olympics. However, it would probably lead to the same issue which the Worlds usually had - playing a tournament during the NHL Playoffs.

Whatever the NHL finally decides, it will lead to even more new questions and issues, but on the other side there’s probably no way back. What do you think?

Other News and Links

Joe Smith of the Athletic tried to predict a postseason roster for the Tampa Bay Lightning [The Athletic, paid content]

The Lightning should be healthy by the time camp starts, so that means captain Steven Stamkos and defensemen Jan Rutta, Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh will all be ready to go. That gives Tampa Bay eight defensemen (plus Zach Bogosian, whom they picked up in February) and 14 forwards who spent a good chunk of the season on the NHL roster.

Blake Coleman is already on his way to Tampa

Zdeno Chara followed Tyler Seguin’s steps and joined the Black Lives Matter protest in Boston

The Russian national team announced changes in their coaching staff. Valeri Bragin becomes the new head coach of team Russia.