There was some optimism across the hockey world Thursday after Sportsnet laid out a detailed 24-team playoff format that's gained some traction.
Locally, Bruins prospect Trent Frederic said he's even heard some dates for a return thrown around, although he didn't say what those dates were.
But appearing on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Thursday afternoon, NBC analyst Pierre McGuire pumped the brakes and said it's still a matter of "if" the NHL returns this season and not just "when."
"If we come back and play," McGuire said. "I know everybody’s thinking we’re definitely coming back to play, but there are issues. There are major issues. This thing is so fluid right now. I’ll use the Canadian border as an example. Everyone says, ‘Well they’ll make a little leeway for the players to cross the border and get in for the six or seven Canadian teams that would be in.’ Well here’s the problem: Once they cross the border, once the players get in, they’re going to have to self-quarantine for 14 days. That’s another 14 days off the calendar. That’s the reality of it. So this is far from being a done deal I believe."
McGuire also pointed out that while coaches and players on a top team like the Bruins definitely want a chance to play this postseason, there may not be nearly as much urgency around some other teams.
"I think there’s a lot of players that are kind of in summer mode right now, because this is a long time to be away from the rink," he said. "But you’ve also got a good percentage of players that actually really do want to play, because they want to finish off a season that they’ve had some really good results. Whether that’s St. Louis, who wants to defend, or Boston, who has shown unbelievable tenacity this season. Maybe Tampa, who got humiliated last year in the first round of the playoffs by Columbus. Maybe Washington, who thinks that they’re starting to peak at the right time. So there are a lot of teams that I think would like to keep playing, but I think most players are probably in summer mode right now."
Still, McGuire said that when push comes to shove, he thinks the league and ownership are going to do everything they can to salvage these playoffs.
"There’s such an appetite from ownership and from the people in the league to get this done that I think they’re going to try to find any way possible to get it done so that it does have significant consequence in a positive way for the league and for the fans that care about the league," McGuire said.
McGuire also clarified one part of the reported playoff plan that was initially unclear. At first it seemed like the top four seeds in each conference would simply get a bye before facing the winners of the play-in round for seeds five through 12. But as Thursday went on, the reports shifted to those four teams actually playing a round-robin tournament amongst themselves and then being reseeded one through four based on the results of the tournament.
McGuire said that is also what he's been hearing, and that a straight bye may not even be desirable for those top-four teams.
"I think the reason they play the round-robin is to reseed," he said. "I can tell you from talking to coaches around the league in those positions of being a top-four seed, the thing is, they need to get battle-ready too. Christian, you know, it’s one thing to play an NFL preseason game, but it’s another to go live and in color opening day. For a lot of these teams, let’s just say they’re playing friendly games those first three games, they might not be battle-tested because the other guys just played a five-game series."