Commissioner Gary Bettman Speaks On What Options Are Being Discussed For Next Season

By Ed Francis on November 11, 2020 at 7:20 am
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

When you make the Stanley Cup playoffs, you either end your season with a loss, or you hoist Lord Stanley.

Columbus, of course, experienced the former. 

And while they'd love to get a new season started, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is beginning to give clues that - as expected - the NHL may have been too ambitious in their hopes. The All-Star Game was cancelled, as was the January 1st Winter Classic in Minnesota; both signs that the league does not believe they can be ready for a start in roughly seven weeks. 

That amount of time would mean training camps would need to start just a few weeks from now, which seems unlikely. Extended training camps for the seven franchises that were not a part of the bubble would start even sooner, making a January 1st start even less likely.  

However, we are starting to get more information from the league on how next season may look - whenever it starts. 

One option that can be crossed off the list: the full-time bubble, similar to those in Toronto and Edmonton that played home to the entire Stanley Cup playoffs. 

That leaves three options on the table: teams playing in hub cities for shorter periods of time, teams playing in their own arenas with attendance where guidelines allow it, or a hybrid of the two. Bettman described the hub city idea as being one in which teams would play a burst of games for 1-2 weeks, then have roughly that same amount of time off. 

The commissioner also noted that minimizing travel will be of the utmost importance.

"As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown,
we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography," Bettman said. 

For the Blue Jackets, this may mean they'll be seeing a lot of Pittsburgh, Detroit,

As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography.– Gary Bettman

Buffalo, Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis in 2021. There is also the possibility that teams from the western conference won't be on Columbus' schedule at all, with Bettman hinting that not all teams will play each other.

"Having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense," Bettman said. "It may be that we're better off, particularly if we're playing a reduced schedule, which we're contemplating, keeping it geographically centric ... to deal with the travel issues."

Previously, the league has said they would like a minimum of 48 games, with several options on the table between 48 a full 82 game slate. 

For the Blue Jackets, one positive to the winter start is that it'll give forward Gustav Nyquist to recover from shoulder surgery. Completed last week, Nyquist is scheduled to miss five to six months. This would put Nyquist on track for a return in roughly April, which could coincide with the end of the regular season, and get the top six forward back in time for a potential playoff run.