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Sport Major storylines to monitor as NHL suspends season

06:20  13 march  2020
06:20  13 march  2020 Source:   thescore.com

Report: Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson could be done for the season

  Report: Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson could be done for the season Anderson scored 27 goals last season and was a true power forward, something that seems to be disappearing from today’s game. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound winger is a force when healthy and playing his best, but it’s not clear when he’ll get back to that.Anderson will be a restricted free agent for the final time and is arbitration eligible, a process that would walk him right into unrestricted free agency if allowed to take place. Should Dreger’s information prove true and Anderson is shut down for the season, it could mean he has played his last game for the Blue Jackets.

Major League Soccer announced it is suspending its season for 30 days. The PGA Tour canceled The Players Championship following the first day of play Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and said it was canceling all tour events through the Valero Texas Open, which was scheduled for April 2-5. Before the NHL put the season on pause, the Columbus Blue Jackets were scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Thursday without fans in response to an order banning mass gatherings in Ohio. The San Jose Sharks, responding to a similar ban in Santa Clara County in

"The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night's news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that "We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will

Hockey is officially on hold.

a hockey game in the snow © Patrick Smith / Getty Images

The NHL followed the NBA's lead on Thursday afternoon by suspending its season in an attempt to avoid contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. The decision comes after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for the virus, and it marks a sharp escalation in the NHL's response to the outbreak, which until now was focusing on distancing players from the media and curbing contact with fans.

The main concern here is the NHL doing its part in the broader effort to curtail the virus. Games are rightfully an afterthought when steps can be taken to minimize public health risks.

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  NHL general managers vote to amend offside rule This does not mean that the rule is immediately changed. The amendment will have to go through the league’s Competition Committee and then be voted on by the board of governors. Since the introduction of offside challenges, there has been much debate over whether the rule should be changed. Many reviews produce inconclusive evidence when the requirement is contact between the blade and the ice, leading to incredibly tough decisions for officiating crews.

The NHL , NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer restricted access to locker-rooms earlier this week, including barring media, amid fears of spreading the virus. Players and coaches instead spoke with reporters in adjacent media centres before and after games. The second-tier American Hockey League , the junior-aged Canadian Hockey League -- including its Western, Ontario and Quebec regional circuits -- MLS and MLB also suspended their seasons Thursday, while the Swiss hockey league announced it has ended the schedule in the top two divisions before the playoffs.

The NHL suspended the 2019-20 season , becoming the next major professional sports league to take action due to the coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.

Still, this indefinite postponement raises hockey-specific questions about everything from this year's Stanley Cup chase to the ceiling of the next salary cap. Whether the league can continue the season, and how that might be structured, will shape the resolutions to those issues.

Here are four major storylines to ponder as the hiatus begins.

The playoff picture

Before play was suspended on Thursday, there were between 11 and 14 regular-season games remaining for each NHL team. The race for the final postseason spots in both conferences is now on pause, with no definite word on how, exactly, the timing and length of the schedule will be affected.

Depending on when the NHL decides it's resuming play, the league could opt to go in one of these directions:

Swedish star Fredrik Handemark drawing NHL interest

  Swedish star Fredrik Handemark drawing NHL interest With European leagues finishing up (or being cancelled) over the next few weeks, plenty of interest will be shown in some of the top performers. In his latest 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman writes that both the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks have shown interest in Fredrik Handemark out of the SHL. © Mikhail Japaridze/TASS/Sipa USA Fredrik Handemark (in blue and yellow) has spent the last five seasons with Malmo, breaking out offensively in 2016-17 when he recorded 32 points in 47 games.

The NHL has paused its season immediately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL , NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer restricted access to locker-rooms earlier MLS and MLB also both suspended their seasons on Thursday, while the Swiss hockey league announced it “We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and

The NHL has suspended its season indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, a league source told The Tennessean early Thursday afternoon. The league officially announced what it called a "pause" in the season later Thursday afternoon. “The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time. “The NHLPA will continue to closely monitor this very dynamic situation and remain in daily discussions with the league , our medical consultants and our players regarding all aspects of this matter,” the NHLPA said in a statement.

  • Pick up where the schedule left off, play the full remaining slate of games, and push the start and end of the playoffs back.

  • Play an abbreviated number of remaining regular-season games, then begin the playoffs closer to the original start date.

  • Cancel the rest of the regular season and hold an impromptu wild-card tournament to settle tight playoff races.

  • Cancel the rest of the regular season and award playoff positions based on the current standings.

Let's say the postponement lasts several weeks, past the planned end of the regular season on April 4, and the NHL decides that last scenario is optimal under the circumstances. These would be the first-round playoff matchups based on points percentage:

a hockey player standing in the snow: Joe Sargent / Getty Images © Provided by theScore Joe Sargent / Getty Images

That's a pretty enticing slate. The Leafs would hold onto a playoff spot and aim to beat the Lightning to earn their first series victory of the Auston Matthews era, and the memory of a Columbus sweep last season is still fresh for Tampa. Elsewhere, Pennsylvania rivals would square off, and the Capitals would meet the Hurricanes in a rematch of last year's first-round series.

Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk still dealing with limited vision in his left eye

  Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk still dealing with limited vision in his left eye Boychuk returned to practice this week but was ruled out of Thursday’s scheduled game against Calgary before the league suspended the season because of the cornonavirus outbreak. The layoff should give Boycuk a chance to regain some more sight in that eye and should make him available to return whenever games resume.Boychuk's return would be key for an Islanders team that was sliding considerably heading into this stoppage, to the point where they fell out of a playoff spot.

The NHL is the first of the four major North American sports leagues to come to an official agreement for a return to action plan post-coronavirus outbreak, though it'll still likely be a couple more months until we actually see meaningful games. If/when the NHL does return, it has been agreed We may have to wait until August to see that get underway, but it's not too early to start looking into and discussing some of the storylines that will come with the 2020 postseason. From the league level, the team level and individual player level, there will be no shortage of things to monitor this playoff season .

The NHL has suspended its season due to concerns about the coronavirus, joining other sports leagues across the country and the world, including the NBA. “In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference “We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions -- including by self-quarantine, where appropriate,” Bettman said. “Our goals is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and

Currently, the fight for the final playoff spots is airtight, so several clubs could be forgiven for crying injustice if the regular season were cut short. The Winnipeg Jets (.563 points percentage) and Minnesota Wild (.558) sit a hair outside of the Western wild-card slots. Out east, the Hurricanes (.596) and Islanders (.588) aren't completely clear of the Blue Jackets (.579), Panthers (.565), and Rangers (.564).

This discussion is speculative for now, as figuring out how to proceed will be difficult for the NHL until there's a sense of how long the lull is likely to last. In a statement, the league said its primary objective "is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup."

To that end, TSN reported Thursday the NHL has asked each team to note which dates their home arena is available through the end of July. Possible overlap with rescheduled NBA games and concerts may complicate that exercise, but the request at least indicates a belief play could stretch deep into the summer if necessary.

Stretch run - or playoff run - storylines for the Colorado Avalanche

  Stretch run - or playoff run - storylines for the Colorado Avalanche Whenever the season resumes - or playoffs begin - Colorado is primed for a major push with players returning from injury.After making somewhat of a surprise appearance in the second round last season, the Avalanche have built off of that and have become one of the top threats in the Western Conference. They’ve managed to do so despite a litany of injuries to key players. That shouldn’t be an issue when play resumes, making it a top storyline for not only them but the rest of the West as well.

An aside on the starkest possible outcome here: The NHL season has ended without a Stanley Cup champion being crowned just once. That occured in 1919, when the Stanley Cup Final was abandoned on the eve of its deciding game because of an influenza pandemic that, within days, killed Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall.

Scheduling ripple effect

The NHL calendar is rigid. Seasons begin and end around the same time every year, and signature events like the All-Star Game and draft always fall within a narrow time frame. The schedule is neat and tidy with no surprises.

Nothing is neat and tidy after Thursday's announcement, which means there will be a ripple effect on the league's 2020 calendar. A few key questions to ponder:

Will the NHL hold its scouting combine?

As of now, probably not, due to travel concerns and the sweaty, intimate environment the fitness-testing portion of the event creates, which runs counter to recommendations from health officials.

The combine, which is scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo, isn't essential to NHL business. It's one part of a wider prospect talent-evaluation process. Teams could conceivably conduct the interview portion of the event via phone or video.

a person on a court: Bill Wippert / NHL / Getty Images © Provided by theScore Bill Wippert / NHL / Getty Images

Will the NHL hold its entry draft?

In trying to resume this season, NHL’s priority is also maintaining full 2020-21 season

  In trying to resume this season, NHL’s priority is also maintaining full 2020-21 season That will not be an easy balancing act for the NHL.That’s what Daly told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside during their Two-Man Advantage podcast.

Almost certainly, though it's possible that instead of being held at Montreal's Bell Centre on June 26-27, the draft takes place online and/or at a later date. Unlike the combine, the draft doesn't technically require any in-person contact.

However, the event generates significant buzz for the league. So, unless the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate and business around the continent completely halts, the 2020 draft should occur at some point.

What about the offseason and beyond?

This is where things get tricky and super speculative.

If the current season resumes in a couple of months and not a couple of weeks, the flow of the offseason will be disrupted. Does free agency get pushed back if the playoffs leak past July 1? Are training camp and the preseason prior to the 2020-21 campaign - which together eat up the entire month of September - in jeopardy of being shortened? If there's a lengthy layoff followed by a postseason that goes long into the summer, something's got to give on the scheduling front.

These won't be easy conversations between the NHL and NHLPA, especially with the owners and players sometimes coming to the table with competing interests.

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Next season's salary cap

This pandemic has led to an unprecedented economic situation globally, let alone in the sports world. There's no playbook here for professional sports leagues like the NHL.

No matter how the global economics play out, pausing the NHL season for any length of time is going to hurt the bottom line. Commissioner Gary Bettman's projection of an upper limit for the 2020-21 salary cap had been between $84 million and $88.2 million. Throw that projection in the trash now.

Isles GM Lou Lamoriello expects goalie Ilya Sorokin to sign a contract for next season

  Isles GM Lou Lamoriello expects goalie Ilya Sorokin to sign a contract for next season The 24-year-old goaltender has dominated the KHL the last few years and is considered the best netminder outside the NHL. He finished the 2019-20 season with a 1.50 GAA and a .935 save percentage in 40 appearances for CSKA Moscow. In the currently suspended playoffs, Sorokin has won all four of his matchups, allowing just three goals so far, with a 0.73 GAA and a .966 save percentage. Sorokin’s contract expires on April 30th, although with the coronavirus suspending play, that date could be pushed back if the KHL intends to continue their playoffs at some point.

Gary Bettman wearing a suit and tie: Dave Sandford / Getty Images © Provided by theScore Dave Sandford / Getty Images

This year's upper limit ($81.5 million) is a better benchmark for the time being, though the length of the NHL's season suspension will ultimately determine how much damage is done to the league's annual revenue of about $5 billion. Spring is especially important, with the hectic two-month postseason driving fandom.

And the salary cap is strongly linked to fandom. Ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, in-arena board advertisements, and more are included in hockey-related revenue. Making matters worse, the Canadian dollar - another big economic variable for NHL business - has sagged lately.

Remembering this season

Beyond how the rest of the campaign is structured and the possible financial fallout heading forward, indefinite postponement also presents a spiritual conundrum. How should fans process the events of what is now a radically disrupted season?

If the regular season is abridged, the resolution of some award races may seem insufficient. Leon Draisaitl has made a strong case to win the Hart Trophy, but could his superstar teammate Connor McDavid, or even a dark-horse candidate such as Artemi Panarin, have made a credible late-season push? What about the razor-thin margin separating Quinn Hughes' and Cale Makar's claims to the Calder Trophy?

a man standing in front of a building: Patrick Smith / Getty Images © Provided by theScore Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Poignantly, any abrupt end to the season could deprive certain legendary players of a celebratory send-off into retirement. The San Jose Sharks are limping toward a bottom-five finish, but Joe Thornton still deserves a proper farewell game. A shortened schedule means fewer last chances to appreciate Patrick Marleau and Zdeno Chara, both of whom are pending UFAs in their 40s.

Alex Ovechkin's charge past 700 career goals and toward Wayne Gretzky's record of 894 - one of the dominant storylines of early 2020 - provides a point of statistical intrigue. If the rest of this season were to finish in full, Ovechkin would be on pace to surpass Gretzky comfortably if he approaches 50 goals in each of the next four campaigns. That math will need to be adjusted if this season is cut short.

In the absence of further clarity, this much is evident for now: All of hockey is in limbo together. Buckle in for a prolonged - and, in the grander scheme, important - intermission.

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