The NHL is at a standstill and won't be moving any time particularly soon.
Across sports, the reality is vast patience. The NHL, like everyone else, will have to wait for answers during the coronavirus outbreak, which forced the league to suspend its 2019-20 season back on March 12.
Waiting for answers means mulling decisions. The NHL, understandably so, is in no rush to make them. Right now, everything remains on the table.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman provided an update Tuesday regarding the league's 2019-20 status in an interview with NBC Sports' Mike Tirico:
Our clubs, if nothing, are extraordinarily competitive and whatever we do has to be fair, which is why there has been some public speculation in the media about neutral-site games in remote parts of the country. That’s just part of considering all of the potential options, depending on how we find the circumstances.
But when you talk about fairness, we also have issues about if we get to play a playoffs, who gets in, if we can’t complete the regular season — we had I think seven teams on the bubble and they all think they were to have a chance — we have to deal with the lottery and orders of selections in the draft.
So, the best thing and the easiest thing would be if at some point we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do. We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is. But again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.
What does this all mean for the Flyers? They're in good shape, even a win-win situation for any type of resumption.
If the NHL can find a way to conclude 2019-20 in full, the Flyers will have a shot to finish off what was on pace to be their best regular season in nine years. Prior to the stoppage, according to Hockey-Reference.com, the Flyers were projected to finish with 104 to 105 points, which would be their most since 2010-11, when they had 106.
With 13 games left on their schedule, the Flyers are one point behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals and own the NHL's sixth-most points at 89. They would love to go for the Metro crown and have an opportunity to cap off their 2019-20 regular-season turnaround following a tumultuous 2018-19.
“When you have time, use it," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said March 30. "To me, there’s no sense in making any decisions until you have to make them. If we’re able to come back and play, that means that the world is in a much better spot than what it is right now, and I think that would be a tremendous sign. Obviously I hope that we have the ability to finish up this year, a lot of work was put in and we got through the majority of the regular season. We’re all competitors, we all want to play and if we’re playing, it means this situation has changed dramatically and we’re in a much better spot.”
If the NHL is forced to trim or completely ax the remainder of the regular-season schedule to expedite the process to the playoffs, the Flyers' work before the hiatus will have paid off.
Prior to the league's pause, the Flyers had won nine of their last 10 games and were 19-6-1 since Jan. 8, a stretch in which they were tied with the Bruins for the NHL's most points at 39.
The Flyers since Jan. 8 prior to NHL stoppage. pic.twitter.com/icUrYeh98q— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) April 5, 2020
And they finally had a positive, season-changing November in which they went 10-2-4 with an NHL-best 24 points. Over their previous five Novembers, the Flyers went a combined 23-29-14.
The improvement in the second month of the season and huge push since early January could turn out to be huge if the league jumps right into the playoffs. If the playoff format remains the same and games are played in the teams' regular arenas with fans, the Flyers already hold second place in the division, which would give them home-ice advantage.
The marked progress has put the Flyers in strong standing with whatever avenue the NHL may take to resume the season and award the Stanley Cup.
If hockey returns in 2019-20, in any shape or form, the Flyers should like their outlook.
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