After restarting the 2019-20 NHL season on Aug. 1 following a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, the league was able to see the year through. On Sep. 28, the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Tampa Bay Lightning after the first-of-its-kind 24-team playoff finished up.
Now, the NHL and NHL Players' Association are tasked with figuring out safe and sensible ways to begin the 2020-21 season, which is being targeted for Jan. 1.
One alteration that could work during the pandemic is changing up divisions.
Currently, the Blackhawks are in the Central, along with the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild.
Multiple sources have told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski that the following divisional restructuring is in play:
Tinkering the Central to be made up of the Hawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Blues, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
First off, yikes. In this format, the rebuilding Blackhawks would be regularly taking on their old rivals in the Wings, the defending Stanley Cup champs in the Lightning, their former head coach in Q's Panthers, and — as they would anyways — the Western Conference's top team in the regular season, the Blues.
Wyshynski also reported "the most popular option (for playing games) involves teams making baseball-style road trips to opponents' cities." Meaning, teams would play consecutive games against a visitor at their home arena. A 60-plus game regular season is being discussed for 2020-21 as well.