When and if the NHL is able to return at some point this season, the league has pinned down what exactly that return will entail. And for teams like the New York Islanders, the league’s decision offered a shot at recovering what was potentially lost in the final games of the regular season.
As of early March, when the NHL paused its 2019-20 campaign, the Islanders sat one point out of a post-season spot, their 80 points just below wild-card clubs Carolina and Columbus. Had the league opted to push straight to a traditional post-season when and if it could restart, the Isles’ would’ve been on the outside looking in.
The 24-team format, however, grants fairness to those who still had the chance to claw their way back into the playoff picture had the season spanned 82 games. And so, instead, the Islanders will face the Florida Panthers in a best-of-five series for a chance to enter the first round of the post-season.
For Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, the strength of the plan, though, lies not simply in that focus on fairness, but in the fact that it was generated through collaboration from all involved in the game.
Lamoriello made that clear during an appearance on Tim & Sid Wednesday, answering the following when asked whether he’s good with the NHL’s Return to Play Plan:
“Yes I am. And the reason I am is because of what the league has done in conjunction with the union,” he told Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro. “…[Because of] what our commissioner Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and Don Fehr have done with a collaborative sort of group, in working towards what’s best for the game and bringing in the different types of people who are necessary to make decisions, and allowing their expertise to have a voice in what’s being done.
“For example, we have 31 teams, we have 31 different physicians. We’ve hired, consulted with so many infectious disease people — I know we have with our team. I know the union is concerned about the health and safety of the players — their physicians are not going to allow anything to happen. The player reps are constantly talking to the players and hearing what is going on.
“Is there a concern, or is there a fear? Listen, there always will be that. This is certainly an unprecedented world we’re in today. … But the planning and homework to get get the game back, and all the precautions being taken with testing, there’s been a lot of work in this.”
Some have questioned aspects of the plan, particularly how it ties in with the NHL Draft lottery — with a selection of teams like the Islanders getting a shot at the Stanley Cup via the play-in round, but also getting a shot at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft should they lose and be eliminated in that qualifying round.
Lamoriello said that while the format may seem peculiar to some, the focus is on bringing the game back in an exciting way for the fans, whenever and however possible.
“Nothing is going to be perfect — we’re not living in a perfect world today,” Lamoriello said. “I don’t like all of the systemic points that are in there. But when I look at the big picture, and I take a step back, and I take my team out of it and I look at what’s good for the game, what’s good for the fans — the fans need something.”
Listen to Lou Lamoriello’s full interview with Tim & Sid via the video at the top of this post.