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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – First Thoughts on the NHL Season Suspension

Welcome, Nation, to yet another edition of the award-winning Monday Mailbag! Here we are at the start of the first week after the NHL has suspended its season for the foreseeable future. Obviously, it’s a strange time to be alive right now but we still wanted to put together your questions and try to come up with whatever answers we can As always, this feature depends on you so please send me your questions by email or Twitter for next week and I’ll try to sneak you in. Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful week and please enjoy the free learning opportunity.

May 27, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference before game one of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Rebuild 3.0 asks – It’s a complicated question to answer but what was everyone’s first thought when they found out the NHL season was going to be suspended?

Jason Gregor:

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Disappointment as sports is one of my favourite hobbies. I love watching it, reporting on it and playing it. I was coaching Initiation hockey this year and it was an absolute blast. Our final weekend was cancelled. I understand why, and I support all the stoppages of sports, but my initial thought was disappointment at all levels of hockey. The Oilers were making the playoffs and covering and watching the playoffs is awesome. It is too bad it won’t happen, well to be honest it sucks, but safety for our citizens is more important.

Robin Brownlee:

For me, it wasn’t complicated. I was relieved. Mass gatherings of people don’t make sense with things as they are now. You can’t put 18,000 people in a building and think that you aren’t increasing the chances the virus will spread. The NHL following the NBA’s example was the right thing to do.

Dustin Nielson:

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As a host of a four hour sports morning show I panicked but then I immediately started thinking of ways to get creative on the radio plus for writing here at the Nation, Inside the Nation and the 2 Guys Podcast… the show much go on, just have to find a way to entertain.

Christian Pagnani:

Surprise. This is actually happening. I didn’t think we’d get to this point. If Rudy Gobert doesn’t test positive are games still on but without fans?

Baggedmilk:

As soon as I saw the NBA suspend its season, I knew that the NHL would do the same thing so all I could really think about was enjoying the Oilers/Jets game that was playing at the time. It was the right choice to make for the greater good of society. Stay home if you can, folks.

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2) Clare asks – Are you surprised at all that some NHL teams have decided to help cover wages for arena staff while others have not?

Jason Gregor:

Not really. At the time of answering this 20 teams have said they will. Initially  Calgary and Winnipeg said no, but they have since changed their stance. Buffalo and Boston said they won’t. Those two teams might suffer the consequences when the NHL returns. It doesn’t look good for those billionaire owners who wouldn’t pay. But it is a stark reminder of how sports teams view their fans and workers. It is a business to make money.

Robin Brownlee:

Not really. I’d like to see all game-night, arena and support staff for all teams covered, but that’s a call for every team to make. I’m glad the Oilers chose to go that route. As quickly as the situation is moving, my guess is the vast majority of teams will be doing this within a week.

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Dustin Nielson:

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Once Mark Cuban said he was going to do it everyone else would look like an ass if they didn’t.

Christian Pagnani:

I’m pleasantly surprised some have. Not surprised other teams have not. It’s particularly embarrassing when they milk the cities they play in for public money to build arenas, but leave staff out on their own in a pandemic. Kudos to those who have, even if some teams had to be pushed/shamed into it.

Baggedmilk:

It’s a tough look seeing as the owners of these teams are most likely billionaires and paying everyone out for the last few games of the season wouldn’t even make a dent in their net worth. It would be an easy thing to do to help alleviate even the smallest bit of stress from part time workers.

Dec 31, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett is seen out on the players bench talking with Referee Ian Walsh (29) as they played the New York Rangers during the second period at Rogers Place. Oilers won the game 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

3) Trent asks – Obviously, this is purely speculative and no one has anything close to an answer right now, but let’s see for the purposes of the mailbag that the NHL season does return. How would you decide on who makes the playoffs? Is Points Percentage fair? What does everyone think?

Jason Gregor:

I think they will go with points %, but we will see 24 teams make the playoffs, 12 in each conference. The top two teams in each conference get a bye, while the others are in best of three series. 2-3-12, 4-11, 5-10 and so on in each conference. The winners plus the four bye teams leave 16 remaining and then they will play best of fives for the next three rounds. Only the Cup Final would be best of seven and it would be every second day. No two days off between games.

Robin Brownlee:

I can’t see teams having time to re-schedule and play out what was left of the schedule, so points percentage might have to be the way to go to determine playoff order. Depending on when play resumes, if it does, I’d also consider making series best-of-five instead of best-of-seven rather than playing into late July or August. There’s going to be an asterisk beside the 2020 playoffs no matter what route the NHL goes.

Dustin Nielson:

I do think Points Percentage is fair… it’s really the only option you have if you are going to jump right into the playoffs. I’d have 7 play 10 and 8 play 9 (based on points percentage) in a best of three to determine the final two playoff spots in each conference.

Christian Pagnani:

I really don’t like going off points percentage. I know it’ll be tough, but I’d just try and play out the remainder of the season or at least have everyone get to 72 or 78 games. Something like that.

Baggedmilk:

I would do points percentage and have all of the bubble teams play a one-game playoff to see who gets in just like what the MLB does. How exciting would those ‘win and you’re in’ games be?

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Feb 8, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates after a goal against the Nashville Predators in the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Kevin asks – If this NHL stoppage goes on for too long, what will the writers at Oilersnation be writing about to keep us all entertained? Thank you in advance for the continued content.

Jason Gregor:

Kevin, I have many ideas. Some will be simple questions engaging the readers. A healthy, mature discussion or debate on topics is great. Also, I have a few special interviews planned, but I don’t want to say what they are in case just yet. It is important to have things to take our mind of what is happening and my goal is to write about things we can all discuss or enjoy.

Robin Brownlee:

Fair question. I’m going to try to stay on top of the news and developments about the stoppage for now because things can change quickly. Beyond that, I’ve got 45-plus years of watching hockey and 35-plus years writing about it, so I’ll try to draw on that with an emphasis on the Oilers.

Dustin Nielson:

I’m mostly going to be counting down 100 reasons Jesse Puljujarvi should suck it up and come back to Edmonton.

Christian Pagnani:

There’s always stuff to talk about. What happens when the season resumes? Will it resume? Who will the Oilers target in free agency? Who should they re-sign? Who should they not re-sign? What lines should they have going into the playoffs or next season? I’m going to try and keep putting stuff out regularly.

Baggedmilk:

We’re going to keep the show going as best as we can. We’re going to look to the past, keep up with the news, bring back contesting, and a whole lot more. I covered a little bit of what’s to come yesterday.

5) Taylor asks – I’m 21 years old and there are a lot of movies that I haven’t seen that you old farts love to talk about so I’m asking for everyone’s top three movies I should be watching during the stoppage?

Jason Gregor:

Comedy… Super Bad, Napolean Dynamite and Planes, Trains & Automobiles..
Action and Drama… Braveheart and Gladiator and one of the most underrated flicks of all time; Boondock Saints. I loved it. You won’t regret it.

Robin Brownlee:

Easy Rider
As Good as it Gets
Apocalypse Now

Dustin Nielson:

Con-Air, Face-Off and The Rock… Nic Cage had one of the greatest three-run movies for any actor in the history of entertainment.

Christian Pagnani:

1) Blade Runner
2) The Departed
3) Paddington

Baggedmilk:

I’m trying to be different here so I’m going to go with:

1. The Usual Suspects
2. Pulp Fiction if you’re into something weird
3. Castaway

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