For a while it looked like the NHL and the NHLPA weren’t going to be able to find common ground, but finally the two sides were able to come to an agreement, and they’ve set the wheels in motion for teams to begin training camps and commence a 56 game season that will see a number of changes.
Which team gains the most fantasy appeal from the @NHL’s divisional realignment for 2020-21?— Pete Jensen (@NHLJensen) December 22, 2020
Division preview episode of the @NHLFantasy podcast:@YouTube https://t.co/pVCpNT8zUL@ApplePodcasts https://t.co/DQ0po8XCgq pic.twitter.com/ozAc98JhGF
There’s the divisional realignment, which gives us the all Canadian ‘North Division’ along with the others. There are some who seem to be genuinely excited about this whole concept, but I guarantee you for some teams, the novelty will wear off quick if your team finds itself in the divisional basement. Also, you think hockey Twitter is garbage now? Wait til you have to deal with Leafs, Habs, Oilers and Flames fans on a regular basis.
Realigned divisions for 20-21 NHL allows a legitimate claim for "Canada's Team" at playoff time. A team will emerge from a competition of all Canadian teams to earn that moniker. So we should all agree to cheer for that team no matter what.— Danger Bear™️ (@stephenpretty) December 23, 2020
Except for Calgary.
What this does do is provide for some potentially interesting Stanley Cup finals possibilities. Not that I think it would happen, but imagine how crazy another meeting against the Chicago Blackhawks would be, except this time it’s the finals? Not sure my ol’ ticker could handle that. That being said, a ton of games against two very good teams in Toronto and Montreal, plus the Flames, Oilers and Jets and making the playoffs is hardly a certainty.
Oh, and Ottawa is there.
So the next issue is sorting out where these games will be played. It’s pretty certain that they don’t want to do the bubble again, but with the varying degrees of control over COVID-19 around North America, it’s not a given that every team will be able to host games. While Edmonton and Calgary will likely have no issue with hosting, as well as Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, it’s the Canucks that could be looking for a temporary new home if the Provincial health authority and the NHL can’t see eye to eye here.
The NHL could have an answer from the 5 provinces involved in league discussions later today. Sources say provincial reps met on Monday and again this morning and are expected to respond the NHL/NHLPA as a group which is viewed as encouraging by some clubs.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 23, 2020
The NHL has also been working on how to keep revenue flowing without being able to have fans in the stands. Pretty sure if you were given the task of coming up with a solution, you’d say ads on the helmets/uniforms, too. And yet, there’s people out there who are acting as though some great sacrilege has been committed for even mentioning this. One team has already decided to take the plunge, though.
It’s a no-brainer, and honestly long overdue. For a league that is as live or die by HRR as they are, you’d think they would have embraced easy money like this ages ago. And I don’t give a damn about “tradition” because they pump out new uniform variations constantly. Maybe it’s just better that they try and milk some money out of someone besides the fans for a change.
Things are also going to look a little bit different than we saw during the playoffs this past summer. For starters, we’ll be seeing coaches wearing masks when behind the bench. There’s also changes to the rules involving testing: Players who test positive in the regular season will be made public, and they will also have to undergo cardiac testing before being cleared to return to play.
Another change that’s coming up is an alteration to the much-maligned offside rules. They’ve tried to make them a bit clearer, and thus it should lead to far less of the review requests that we saw in the past. Is it perfect? Nope. This is the NHL, after all. It is a step in the right direction though, and hopefully it means less of the delays to go back two minutes in time to see if a hair-line difference zone entry will eliminate a goal. We hope.
So with training camps about to get underway, and the season set to go on Jan 13th, there are not only roster decisions to be made, but for the three Western Canadian teams, big decisions about who they’ll carry on their 6 man taxi squad. And it is big, because unlike the other teams in the league, the Canucks, Flames and Oilers will not have access to the players on their AHL affiliates. For a team that’s suffered the kind of injuries that the Canucks have over the last few years, this is not a good scenario at all.
To even the depth pool, NHL could have allowed Canucks, Oilers and Flames 8-10 on taxi squads. But, you know, Western Canada... https://t.co/1rHy3LnJpW— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) December 23, 2020
Is it a disadvantage? Of course it is. Would this have been changed if it was the Leafs and Habs in this boat? Of course it would. It’s fine though, because they’re not making the playoffs anyway.
In other news, while the league will have schedule details out later today, they have announced that a Stadium Series game scheduled in North Carolina in Feb has been postponed.
Also, consider this a warning:
New Jersey announced a re-signing today:
And finally, with the holiday season upon us, that means it’s time for the annual IIHF World U20 Tournament aka the World Junior Hockey Championships. The teams are in the bubble in Edmonton and game action gets underway Friday, and let me tell you, I am all for hockey on Christmas Day.
Team Canada has one exhibition game, and it’s a big one as they take on the team favoured to win it all this year: Team Russia, featuring Canucks prospect Vasily Podkolzin. He’s not the only Canucks draft pick featured in this tournament though, as we’ll get a chance to see Arvid Costmar for Team Sweden as they do battle in the tough Group B against Russia, the United States, Czech Republic and Austria.
The real action gets underway for Canada on Saturday as they take on Germany, followed by the Slovaks on Sunday. A day off, then the always tough Swiss team on Tuesday, and a New Years Eve matchup against Finland. The medal round will get underway on Saturday, January 2nd.