Some questions answered along the Flyers’ trail as the NHL continually tweaks plans to restart the suspended season.
The NHL had hoped to start training camps on July 1, but the date was pushed back a few days ago.
Now camps won’t start until July 10 -- at the earliest. That means the season won’t resume until at least Aug. 1 … and probably later.
Let’s say it begins Aug. 10. That would be about five months since teams played, and it would probably move the start of next season to late December or early January, perhaps with an outdoor game on New Year’s Day.
It’s understandable why the NHL wants to resume the season. The TV revenue (as much as $500 million) will reduce losses and perhaps prevent the salary cap from taking a significant dip in 2020-21.
Fans are getting impatient, though most still want the season to begin and want a completion to the dramatic first five-plus months.
Pulling the plug would be like watching the first eight episodes of the oh-so-suspenseful Ozark and then telling viewers, sorry, you won’t find out if Marty Byrde is still alive because this season is done.
Which brings us to this week’s questions that were submitted on Twitter…
Question submitted by @Eagles209: Why not junk this season and start in November or December?
Answer: There is one reason the league, at least for the time being, isn’t considering that: $$$$. But the longer the restart is delayed, the less interested fans are going to be in resuming the season. And if there is a spike of the coronavirus in upcoming months, well, the NHL may have no choice than to bag the season and look ahead to 2020-21.
As it stands now, it looks like next season could begin in January, and it’s head-scratching that commissioner Gary Bettman still thinks a full 82-game schedule can be played that year.
Question from @sean_r_moore: Why does earth hate the Flyers?
Answer: I assume you ask that, Sean, because the Flyers were the NHL’s hottest team when the season was paused and seemed ready to pass Washington and win the Metropolitan title.
The glass-half-full thinking: The season looks like it will resume, and if it does, the Flyers can draw from their stellar play the last several months. There are no excuses for them or any of the other contenders. All will have had long breaks. The ones that can get back to form quickly are the ones that deserve to have a long playoff run.
Question from @HarrisLacey: Can they have the draft before the playoffs are over?
Answer: No. The league has announced the draft will take place at the conclusion of the season. That way, teams can make deals and not have them affect this year’s playoffs.
Question from @mimiwhite49: Will James van Riemsdyk and Nolan Patrick be available to play when hockey returns?
Answer: Yes on JVR, probably not on Patrick.
Van Riemsdyk has recovered from a fractured right index finger that had sidelined him before the season was suspended. Phil Myers has also recovered from a fractured right kneecap.
As for Patrick (migraine disorder), GM Chuck Fletcher said on April 10 he still wasn’t ready for contact. Under the circumstances, I doubt they would risk Patrick reinjuring himself even if he is ready for the restart.
In addition, you have to wonder if the Flyers would break up their great chemistry and throw Patrick into the lineup after he hasn’t played since the 2018-19 season. At this point, it seems more likely the Flyers hope he can play in training camp before 2020-21 and start that season fresh.
You have to feel for the 21-year-old Patrick. He is working hard to return and is extremely frustrated by his medical battle.
Question from @fordboner: What are going to be the toughest lineup decisions for the Flyers in the first round?
Answer: With van Riemsdyk returning, the most difficult decision will be whether rookie Joel Farabee remains in the lineup or someone like Michael Raffl or Nic Aube-Kubel comes out. Look for Farabee to be benched.
Myers is also returning, so Alain Vigneault will have to make a decision on defense. I expect Robert Hagg will stay in the lineup and Shayne Gostisbehere will come out. Gostisbehere played in the last game, a 2-0 loss to Boston, because of Myers’ injury.
When the Flyers put together their nine-game winning streak shortly before the season was suspended, Farabee played in five of the victories. Hagg played in all nine, and Gostisbehere played in none of them.
Question from @RyanSage5: How quickly can we see players return to Philly?
Answer: They’ll be back for camp, which won’t start until at least July 10. They are expected to start filtering back to the area about a week before camp begins.
There will be small-group sessions at some point in June when a handful of Flyers will be at their Voorhees training facility. But a lot of players – because they don’t want to uproot their families -- will continue to work out and (hopefully) skate in their hometowns, whether in the U.S., Canada, or Europe until training camp is about the begin.
Question (from @MidMajorMatt): Would the Flyers have been better off getting the No. 5 seed and the Canadiens in the first round or playing in the round-robin to determine their seed when we return?
Answer: They are better off in the round-robin. If they were the No. 5 seed, a spot held by Pittsburgh, they would have to win five rounds instead of four to capture the Cup. And they would have had to face Montreal’s Carey Price in the play-in round.
The Penguins should win the round rather easily over the lowly Habs. That said, Price has the ability to steal a game or two.
Question (from @Razard_James): Do you believe the top-four seeded teams with a bye have a disadvantage? If so, how big?
Answer: I don’t. The bye gives them a guaranteed playoff spot, and they will still compete in a round-robin tourney to stay sharp and decide seedings. Granted, the round-robin won’t be as intense as the win-or-go-home play-in rounds, but the action will still be highly competitive.
And playing in just three round-robin games (instead of potentially five in the play-in round) will save some wear and tear down the road when the playoffs intensify.