NHL 2020-21 Season: Plans, Timeline, Struggles

NHL 2020-21 Season

The NHL is in the middle of its offseason, and the 2020 draft and free agency period with some of the league’s top picks are about to get underway. Here’s everything you need to know about the league and team executives’ plans for the 2020-21 season as of early November:

Progress Report

According to Yahoo! Sports’ NHL insider Greg Wyshynski, The NHL and the NHLPA announced that they have shifted their target date for starting the 2020-21 season to January 1, 2021. However, the two parties haven’t scheduled any negotiating sessions yet. In short, there’s no feasible plan at the moment.

“It’s premature to be drawing up plans [when] you don’t have a real good idea as to whether they’re practical, feasible or going to be put in place…At some point, we have to do it. But I think to this point, it’s been a general sentiment that we don’t know enough yet to get more granular than we’ve been,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an interview.

2020-21 Timeline

The NHL suspended the 2019-20 season on March 12 and announced details for Phase 3 (training camps) on July 6. Succeeding that, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup and concluded the season on September 28. Based on the timeline from the last season, Daly thinks the NHL needs to immediately figure out the details for the 2020-21 season. We can expect more information about the 2020-21 timeline by late November or early December.

Next Season Format

Regarding tournament formats, the options are still limited since the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. According to Wyshynski, NHL owners are considering hosting a bubble environment in Toronto and Edmonton. But first, they need to secure a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NHLPA to come up with a foolproof financial plan. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a league-wide financial disaster.

With a delayed start date (January 1, mid-January, or February), some teams believe that they would face another shortened season. When that happens, expect 48 to 65 games and a traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff tournament—like the format we’ve seen last season. A 48-game season is considered the absolute minimum at the moment.