Will it all be worth it?
If the NHL is somehow able to salvage the rest of the NHL season in some fashion, one wonders if there aren’t participants and fana who will ultimately wonder if perhaps it would be better to simply move on.
Or if there would be an asterisk beside this year’s Stanley Cup winner?
Take, for example, if the league and teams decide on the most recent proposal to re-start with a best-of-five “play-in” for 16 teams. It could potentially mean that after players re-assemble from all over the globe, go through potential quarantine orders and then a sizeable training camp, they could ultimately have all those efforts erased in a three-game sweep.
How would that sit?
“Good question,” said Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving during his weekly chat with local reporters.
“With the amount of time everybody has been off, and all the time and energy that would go into relaunching, you want to have enough games. You’d hate to have people go through everything and you come back for a game and now you’re out again. I don’t know what that sweet spot is. If it is the rumoured, best-of-five — that probably seems the fairest. I’m good with that.”
At last word the NHLPA executive committee was mulling over okaying the aforementioned format, which would see the top four teams in each conference play one another for seeding, while teams ranked fifth-through-12th in each conference would have a best-of-five play in series to establish the top eight on each side.
Would a modified system like that tarnish the integrity of winning the Stanley Cup, which is generally considered the hardest trophy in sports to win by virtue of its extended war of attrition?
Fact is, such a format would actually be more onerous than that of the 1980s when 16 of the league’s 21 teams opened the playoffs with a best-of-five series before finishing with four rounds of best of sevens.
The proposed format would also see four rounds of best of sevens, which would get Treliving’s approval.
“You also know the backdrop is we don’t have an indefinite period of time to get it all in,” said Treliving.
“To win the Stanley Cup, it’s hard to do that. It’s got to be hard, and from what I’ve read, it’s going to be hard. The difficulty has still got to be there. People have asked at the end of that if there’s an asterisk beside whoever wins this. My comment would be, ‘this is where we are in life.’ I look at it like this is certainly going to be different, but somebody is going to win this, if we get to that point.”
And that, in Treliving’s eyes, would be a win for everyone.
“If we’re getting back to playing hockey that means, No. 1, we’re progressing as a society, which is good, and we’re getting on the other side of this. We’ve awarded the Stanley Cup under different circumstances under different times.
“Whoever wins this will be just as happy and just as proud for whatever format they’ll have to go through. Is it going to be unique? Sure. But everyone is going to have an opportunity to participate in the format and be successful in it.”
A look back at how the Cup was awarded since 1893 shows teams winning in formats ranging from single-game eliminations, two-game total scores to best of sevens.
“We’ve had winners after 48 games and they get rings like everybody else got,” he said, referring to the 1995 and 2013 champions, who won the Cup following lockout-shortened regular seasons.
“Whatever the format is we’ll be excited to be part of that, hopefully, and we’ll go after that. You can’t compare it to what happened last year. Again, we’re in a different time. Hey, getting a haircut these few months seems like you deserve a medal. Small victories.”
Refusing to get too excited or invested in the latest possible plan for obvious reasons, Treliving once again reiterated that no matter what plan the league and its players come up with, none of them can be executed unless the medical experts give their blessing on changing protocols that would include playing in empty hub arenas hosting a large number of teams.
“Again, knowing the athletes, this is a competitive group,” he said.
“If we get back it will be exciting and competitive and very, very compelling.”