The NHL has revealed their key dates for the 2020 playoffs and offseason, but uncertainty remains for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the rest of the league.
The picture has now become clearer for when the Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in their play-in series, at least in theory. As reported by Frank Seravalli of TSN, the NHL has tentatively revealed their key dates for the playoffs and offseason.
As things stand, teams will report to the two hub cities on July 24, with exhibition games beginning the following day. The important business will then get underway on July 31, with the start of the qualification round.
Assuming the Leafs beat the Blue Jackets they will then advance to the first round of the playoffs, which will begin on Aug. 9. The second round will start on Aug. 23 and the Conference Finals will take place from Sept. 6.
As per Seravalli, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Sept. 20, with the series concluding by Oct. 2 if a Game 7 is required. The Final will take place in Edmonton, regardless of who qualifies.
In terms of Edmonton and Toronto, the plan is to hold three games per day in each city for a total of six daily contests. As reported by Scott King of NBC Sports, puck drop would be 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m local time.
In fairness, this schedule sounds feasible as long as COVID-19 positive tests don’t begin to spike, as they have done for Major League Soccer. As per the NHL public relations department, the latest round of testing has resulted in just 23 positive results out of more than 2,900 tests.
One thing which gives the NHL an advantage over MLS, is that their season will resume in Canada rather than the United States. Of course, while this gives cause for more optimism, it does not guarantee things will run smoothly.
In this respect, the NHL’s offseason plan makes for interesting reading. As per Seravalli, free agency will begin on the later of Oct. 9 or seven days after the Stanley Cup Final ends, which sounds reasonable enough as things stand.
However, our concerns surround the quick turnaround for next season, with Nov. 17 set as the opening for training camp. The start of the 2020-21 campaign is then slated for Dec. 1, which seems somewhat optimistic.
We appreciate why the NHL has scheduled their key dates in the manner presented, in order to get the league back on track and returning to normal — or as normal as they can do — as quickly as possible. However, as they and all professional sports leagues have learned the hard way, the pandemic is still setting the timeline at this stage.
Further, you have to wonder how next season will set up? It’s one thing to have two hub cities for a playoff tournament, but how feasible is such a plan when it comes to playing an entire season?
Ultimately, we hope that our concerns prove to be fruitless. For now though, all NHL fans can do is keep their fingers crossed and see how matters play out in the coming months.
How confident are you that the NHL will be able to stick to the schedule they have set for the resumption of this season? Further, do you expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to win their play-in series and advance to the playoffs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.