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Photo Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

Monday Musings…

History tends to repeat itself, until a drastic change is implemented to change course.

It is why we have seen, in any sport, the good franchises stay competitive or well-run for years, while the losing franchises stink for years, sometimes decades.

Improvement only occurs when a major change in philosophy, approach or personnel is made. And often poorly run franchises will make numerous changes, but none alter their paths to loserville.

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We saw it firsthand with the Edmonton Oilers during the Decade of Darkness. They changed head coaches regularly, but continued to rush players to the NHL, instead of proper development, and simultaneously they moved out many of the proven NHL players and were left with depleted lineups. It took many years, seven head coaches, four general managers and numerous players before the Oilers became stable again.

Up until this past summer, history told us that when the CBA was about to expire the NHL and NHLPA would not agree to a new deal without some labour stoppage. That trend ended in July when they ratified a new CBA through to the end of the 2025/2026 season. We needed a pandemic and the pressure to award a Stanley Cup winner to help get a deal done.

Fast forward four months and the recently agreed upon CBA is already being questioned by NHL owners. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the NHL will take a significant financial hit. Around 70% of the league’s revenues come from tickets as well as food and beverage on game nights. With no fans allowed in buildings, at least for the next few months, the NHL’s revenue will surely drop.

The CBA stated the players would have a maximum 20% escrow and 10% deferred salary in 2020/2021. But last week the owners presented some new options.

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One offer had deferred salary at 20% and escrow around 25% for the upcoming season.
Another option was deferred salaries at 25%, but then in the final three years of the CBA, the escrow would be around or above 8.5%. The recently signed CBA has the escrow maxed out at 6% in those three seasons.

The NHLPA wasn’t enamoured with either deal. Who can blame them? It’s not like the medical experts hadn’t predicted a second wave of the pandemic in October/November, and all parties knew how heavily reliant their revenues are connected to having fans in the stands.

I understand why the NHLPA doesn’t want to alter the new CBA. I also understand why the owners don’t want to play a season and lose millions.

Both sides will have to make some concessions in the coming weeks if they want to play the 2021 season. I believe both parties want to play, and they will, but I’ve felt all along a January 1st re-start wasn’t realistic, and with these new offers from the owners, I could see the start date pushed back to later in January, because the NHL has started a season in January twice before.

In 1995 the NHL had a 48-game regular season begin on January 20th, finish on May 3rd and completed the playoffs between May 6th to June 24th.
In 2013, with another 48-game season, the NHL started on January 19th, finished the regular season on April 28th and then had playoffs from April 30th to June 24th.

The NHL would like to award the Stanley Cup no later than July 15th, so there is no cross-over with the Olympics. With that end-date in mind, combined with previous shortened regular seasons, I think the NHL could start as late as February 10th and still play a 48-game season, with four playoff rounds without condensing the schedule anymore than they did in 1995 and 2013.

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While the NHL has a new CBA, don’t be surprised if we see negotiations delay the start of next season. It is the NHL way.

PARTING SHOTS…

1.If you are wondering why William Lagesson switched teams, it has to do with some newer rules in the Allsvenskan league.

When Lagesson originally signed with Vita Hasten, he wasn’t under contract with the Oilers and wasn’t on loan. He played 11 games (scoring 3-6-9), but once he signed with the Oilers he needed to be loaned to Vita. Teams are only allowed four loaned players, and he would have been the fifth, so he had to find a new team.

Thus the reason for him being loaned today to Kristianstads IK. Lagesson will report to the Oilers at the start of training camp.

2. If the NHL returns, there will be an all-Canadian division and three American divisions. In October I wrote what I thought the divisions would look like. Turns out I was pretty close to what the NHL was thinking. Only Carolina and Pittsburgh will be in different divisions according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN. Others have confirmed these four divisions are what the NHL is leaning towards. I’m a bit surprised Philadelphia and Pittsburgh aren’t in the same division, so I won’t be surprised if they still might tweak them before officially announcing the three American divisions.

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3. I’m pumped for the Canadian division. When I wrote about it over a month ago, I received some feedback stating how this is horrible for Canadian teams as it would guarantee fewer teams in the playoffs. That is actually incorrect. This format would guarantee four Canadian teams make the playoffs, two make the second round and one reaches the Conference Final.

1st RND 2nd RND 3rd RND
2019 CGY, TOR, WPG
2018 TOR, WPG WGP WPG
2017 CGY, EDM, MTL, OTT, TOR EDM, OTT OTT
2016
2015 CGY, MTL, OTT, VAN, WPG CGY, MTL
2014 MTL MTL MTL
2013 MTL, OTT, TOR, VAN OTT

I didn’t include 2020, as it was expanded playoffs, although Edmonton, Toronto and one of Calgary or Vancouver was guaranteed to make it, it was still only three. It probably would have been four with one of Winnipeg and whoever finished fourth in the Pacific making it, but the most it would have been is four guaranteed in the playoffs.

Only twice in seven seasons, in the chart above, did we see four Canadian teams in the playoffs, and only twice did we have two in the second round. Not only will an all-Canadian division stoke some rivalries, but it will also ensure four fanbases have their team in the playoffs. I see it as a win-win.

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