The coronavirus pandemic has finally impacted the NHL and the Nashville Predators. Today, the league announced that they will be suspending play indefinitely in order to protect players, coaches, and fans from contracting the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.
The announcement was made on March 12th simultaneous to a flurry of major athletic conferences, both amateur and professional, that made similar announcements.
The National Basketball Association was the first American professional league to make this move. The NBA announced last night that they were suspending their season indefinitely following the discovery of a positive test by a player.
It seemed logical that the NHL might follow suit, and the first hint that they would do so came Thursday morning, when the league advised clubs to not hold morning skate or practices.
Given the uncertainty regarding next steps regarding the coronavirus, Clubs are advised not to conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings today.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 12, 2020
With 10 games on the schedule for Thursday night, this seemed to suggest a larger move was coming.
Then, the big news, which came from several major NHL insiders via Twitter.
The NHL season has officially been suspended. No surprise. There is hope to resume.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 12, 2020
Source on NHL players’ side thinks “best case” would be a 2-3 week suspension, a short continuation of a sub-82-game reg. season and then a truncated playoffs with shorter opening series. But playing into July is an option. Again, one person’s informed speculation.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) March 12, 2020
The league did not give a specific a timetable to return. If the league does return to play, it seems like there are a lot of options on the table including cancelling the final slate of regular season games. It does not seem like the league is considering cancelling the Stanley Cup playoffs, but that’s not out of the question.
UPDATE: the league released this statement, including the following:
“Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.”
How this impacts the Nashville Predators
Obviously this means that tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs is on hold, as will be the next slate of games against the Blue Jackets, Wild, Avalanche, and Flyers. There is no official timetable for return, but the league did mention a 2-3 week “best case” scenario. If that happens, the Preds could return to action as soon as March 26th against the Los Angeles Kings.
No matter how you look at it, the suspension of the league has severely changed the landscape of this season for the Nashville Predators.
If they do return to play for the regular season, the team will have very few games to maintain their slim margin in the Wild Card. If there are no more regular season games, and the league opts to start immediately with the playoffs, there are a number of ways to calculate who would be in the playoffs and who would be out.
If the league goes with overall points with regulation wins as the tie breaker (which is currently how tie breakers are decided) the Preds would be in the playoffs over the Canucks. If the league goes with point percentage (i.e., the number of points obtained compared to the number of games played), the Preds would also be in the playoffs. However, if the league went with overall number of wins, the Preds would be knocked out of the playoffs by the Canucks (the Preds have 35 wins, the Canucks have 36).
So it would seem, at the moment, that the Preds might have clinched a playoff spot. But again, we don’t know what will happen in the next couple weeks, so it’s impossible to say.
We have no idea when the NHL will return, so it’s too early to make any real predictions. But if the league does return and proceeds with the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Nashville Predators are more than likely already in.
— Image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —