Boston Hockey Now could not confirm whether or not the Boston Bruins voted yes but we can tell you that as many NHL teams did before voting on the NHL Return To Play Committee 24-team playoff proposal, Bruins players had some debates.
Clearly safety and more specifically, testing topped the list of concerns but one team source told BHN that there were some Bruins that did not want to see the work that went into the best record in the NHL (44-14-12, 100 points) at the pause go to waste from potentially being knocked out by a team like the Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points) who had a one percent chance of making the playoffs when the season was paused on March 12 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The source said it “should be the players choice’ to reveal their vote but all indications were that in the end, the general consensus amongst Bruins players was to finish what they started and erase the heartbreak of losing Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden last June.
On Wednesday, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy hinted at what Bruins player rep Brandon Carlo might experience when he presented the final proposal from the NHL Return To Play Committee.
“From our position, I’d rather it just 16 [teams],” Cassidy said on the Toucher and Rich Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “This is just me and you talking — I don’t have a say in all of this — but I’d rather it be 16 teams, four rounds of four out of seven, let’s go. That’s the integrity of the playoffs. It’s always been that way.
At the end of the day, it’s going to be unfair for somebody down the road but hopefully we get to that 16 in the right way and it doesn’t hurt us. That’s where I’m coming from: That we don’t get kind of screwed in this process. Because we shouldn’t be. We should be rewarded for our regular season.”
Cassidy expressed confidence that Bruins Owner and the NHL Governors’ Chairman Of The Board Jeremy Jacobs as well as General Manager Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely would yield their influence and opinion to make sure the NHL’s best team heading into the playoffs will get a fair shake.
“I think our guys like Cam [Neely], Donny [Sweeney], and ownership will argue for the best deal possible,” the Bruins bench boss said.
On Saturday, it appeared Cassidy was getting his wish and that NHL players were also wondering about the bracket-style used in the proposal should be used or should the teams reseed each round as they normally do? According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic, they’re also debating the number of games in the play-in round.
Aside from the bracketing versus re-seeding decision, another open issue on the 24-team format: whether the first round of the actual playoffs (16 teams) should be the normal best-of-7 or instead a best-of-5 like the play-in series beforehand…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 23, 2020
As of now, the Bruins and the top seed in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues would get the winner of the 8 v 9 matchups. For the Bruins, that would mean either the Columbus Blue Jackets or for the third straight year they would face their Original 6 rival the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As the NHLPA reiterated in it’s official statement confirming the approval, there is still plenty of work to be done.
‘The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.’
As mentioned above, one of those issues will be readily available testing for players and all team personnel as well as how many hub cities will be used and where they will be but at least for one this 2020 Memorial Day weekend, the league and its fans can celebrate something. Feel free to at least take those nets back on the street after the cars pass and say ‘Game On’ and hopefully if all other matters can be solved soon, the NHL will be putting nets back on the ice in at least two NHL hub cities.