The NHL has officially announced the return to play plan along with the playoff teams for this season, and Buffalo isn’t one of them. The Sabres missed the playoffs by three points, behind Montreal, a team that has played two more games.
Here are some key notes that the league released today:
- The league is trying to lock down two hub cities where games will be played, and they’ll use one for each Conference.
- The NHL said training camps will open no earlier than July 1st and likely not in the first half of July.
- The Draft Lottery will be held on June 26th.
That means a draft lottery will take place well before the season resumes! Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the possibilities of this and how it would work if one of the play-in teams makes it further in the playoffs, and it could result in 2 phases:
“If a team not in the bottom seven wins any of the first three drawings, a Second Phase will be conducted among the eight teams eliminated in the Qualifying Round. That would take place between the end of the Qualifying Round and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.” – NHL.com
NHL Draft Lottery will be on Friday June 26. The Nos. 1, 2 and 3 picks will be up for grabs. Fifteen teams — the seven who are no longer playing plus 8 more currently identified as Teams A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H — will be in the lottery. Same lottery odds as prior years.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 26, 2020
Don't believe decision coming today on hub cities. But hearing 10 teams still in running to be a hub. List includes: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 26, 2020
GMs were told on the call that the NHL draft itself will wait until after the season/playoffs. Which means the majority opinion of teams certainly won out on that one.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 26, 2020
Montreal doesn’t deserve to be in here, but neither does Buffalo. The Canadiens have played two more games than the Sabres, but have three more points, giving them the edge in points percentage.
It seems very unlikely that the Sabres would have gained three or four points in those two games to be played, but you never know. Buffalo’s next regular season opponent would have been Montreal the night the season was paused, and that game could have given the Sabres a better points percentage with a win.
What also didn’t help was the fact that Buffalo had recently lost six straight games in regulation before defeating the Capitals in a shootout.
St. Louis and Boston may enter with the best odds to win the Stanley Cup, but without any momentum for any teams, the Cup could be up for grabs this year.
Are Playoffs the Wrong Move?
In my mind, I think the NHL should just cancel the rest of the entire season. While I enjoy sports, it doesn’t feel right to me to rush them back just to try to complete a season. I’d much rather focus on the rest of the country and world getting through this pandemic.
I also don’t think playoffs will have the same feel to it, and the Stanley Cup this year will come with an asterisk. Imagine a team like Montreal getting hot and winning the whole thing.
I believe it would be better for the league to cancel the whole thing and focus on trying to play a safe and normal season, starting in the fall.
Strong Start, But Still No Playoffs
That’s a 9-2-2 record to start the regular season, but the Sabres couldn’t even finish the year in the top 24 of the league. For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in eight straight years coming into the season, that’s embarrassing. They keep finding ways to get worse.
Even if they had an extra win or two in there, and took Montreal’s spot, would you even want them in these abbreviated playoffs? I don’t think I would. I’d certainly watch and root them on, but it wouldn’t be deserved and I’m not sure if these playoffs will carry the same meaning that they normally do.
Also, in this case, they would have faced Pittsburgh in the first round, and possibly Philadelphia if they moved on. Buffalo took two of three against the Penguins this season and dropped both meetings against the Flyers.
Regardless, it sounds like hockey is set for a return, so at least we’ll be able to watch sports again soon. And this will be very unusual and new for all of us. Stay safe!