The NHL is the first of the major sports leagues to announce its plans for returning to play.
In a typical year, we’d be in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs right now.
However, the league has been on pause since March 12, when COVID-19 overran the world of sports.
The NBA and MLB have been in the same spot ever since. But while the MLB works with its union and the NBA decides how it wants to return to play, the NHL already has its plan for moving forward.
The league is tossing out the rest of its regular season and heading straight into the playoffs. This year, 24 teams will compete in playoff action, rather than the typical 16.
That means that teams like the Chicago Blackhawks will get a chance at making a postseason run.
Betting on the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs
The Blackhawks had a very small chance of making the playoffs before the season came to a halt.
Under this new format, Chicago will get its chance during a best-of-five play-in series against the Edmonton Oilers.
The delay gave the Blackhawks a chance to stitch together their injury-filled roster. With the extra healing time involved, guys like Duncan Keith, and maybe even players like Andrew Shaw that suffered year-ending injuries earlier in the season, could make their returns to the ice.
However, bringing back injured players is something that every team will have the chance to do. The odds still see Chicago’s chances as a long shot.
Right now, DraftKings has the Blackhawks at +3,000 to win the Western Conference. Those are the worst odds out of all of the conference’s playoff teams.
- Vegas Golden Knights: +300
- Colorado Avalanche: +350
- Saint Louis Blues: +400
- Dallas Stars: +600
- Edmonton Oilers: +1,100
- Calgary Flames: +1,700
- Nashville Predators: +1,700
- Vancouver Canucks: +2,000
- Arizona Coyotes: +2,000
- Minnesota Wild: +2,000
- Winnipeg Jets: +2,300
- Chicago Blackhawks: +3,000
Chicago’s odds to take home the Stanley Cup tell a similar story.
Right now, FanDuel has the Blackhawks at +10,000 to become champions. That ties them with the Montreal Canadiens for the worst odds out of all 24 playoff teams.
When exactly will the NHL be returning?
That’s a tough answer to pin down. The league still has some work to do before the playoffs can start.
For starters, this “straight to the playoffs” plan will only happen if the league finds a way to resume play this summer. If the NHL can’t find a safe way to return in time, it might have to cancel the postseason altogether.
The NHL and Players’ Association decided on a multi-phase plan to bring things back to normal.
The first few phases mainly involve things like training camps opening up and teams returning to their facilities.
Under the new plan, the playoffs would start in phase four. Since phase three can’t start until the the first half of July, we could be looking at a late July or early August return to play if all goes well.
In the meantime, the NHL needs to nail down its two hub cities. Both conferences will have their own areas in different cities for the playoff teams to isolate and play within.
The two cities will be picked out of the following options:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
At least for now, there’s no way to know the exact date that NHL will return. However, the league is working hard to get back to action, so fans at least have some idea of what the rest of the summer could look like for hockey.