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JONES: NHL should be applauded for leading the way with realistic plan

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates a goal on Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Jan. 14, 2020. With the regular season now officially now finished, he becomes the 10th player in the club's 40 seasons to win the scoring title and Art Ross Trophy.
Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates a goal on Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Jan. 14, 2020. With the regular season now officially now finished, he becomes the 10th player in the club's 40 seasons to win the scoring title and Art Ross Trophy.

The thing about being self-isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic is that it gives you a lot of time to think. Vol. 1, No. 5.

There were more questions than NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was able to answer while his three-year-old grandson played with pots and pans for background in the kitchen Tuesday afternoon.

But at a time when other leagues are still floating without a plan, Bettman provided one that is reasonable and realistic.

Yes, there’s an absence of any real time frame other than a hope to get players around the league back on the ice and skating in the next week or two and into training camp situations in mid-July.

But there’s a framework going forward that the NBA, MLB and certainly the Canadian Football League don’t have. And there’s a reasonable chance they could make it work.

There’s a lot to be decided including whether the first two rounds of the normal Stanley Cup playoffs would be shortened to best-of-five series, as will be the case in the play-in series. But Bettman guaranteed the conference finals and Stanley Cup final would both remain the traditional best-of-seven series.

This is a one-off situation and I’d expect there would be no major opposition to two more rounds of best-of-five play. That way, it would take 17 wins for a play-in series team to hoist the Stanley Cup instead of 16.

Hey, the whole thing is going to be wild and crazy. Why not make it wilder and crazier.

•••

It’s called being heavy on the forecheck.

Premier Jason Kenney, leader of the opposition and former Premier Rachel Notley and Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw formed an energy line Wednesday to help secure hub city status for the Edmonton bid to host Stanley Cup playoff games here.

The one missing component involved in Edmonton’s attempt to attract two months of empty-seat telecasts out of Rogers Place was for the federal government to wave the 14-day quarantine for the teams that would be headed here for the 12-team Western Conference games.

Kenney wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Notley produced a video and Dr. Hinshaw wrote a letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Dr. Hinshaw went out of her way to assure Bettman the province is more than capable of supplying all the testing requirements the league might want.

“I am confident in the capabilities of our public health system and health capacity to address and rising need,” she wrote.

Kenney made it pretty clear a bit back that he didn’t expect the 14-day quarantine would be a problem with NHL teams going through virtual quarantines with a substantial amount of testing at training camps before catching a charter flight and proceeding directly to their hotel and to Rogers Place in well-sterilized buses.

Kenney also referred to the number of active cases that have dropped to the 50 range, the daily number of positive tests that have dropped to single digits, only five hospital beds with coronavirus patients and only one person remaining in intensive care.

The players wouldn’t be locked in their hotel rooms. They’d even be able to go golfing between series and associate with their families. But they’d have to get temperature tested every day entering the building and frequently during the event.

Bettman said the NHL will likely wait three or four weeks to select the hub cities as they watch the statistics and the availability of testing in each city.

The way the numbers are trending and the availability of everything here, Edmonton’s case figures to get better, not worse.

•••

With the announcement that the regular season is now considered complete, for the 10th time in their 40 seasons, it became official that with Leon Draisaitl finishing first, an Edmonton Oilers player has won the scoring title and the Art Ross Trophy. If Draisaitl or Connor McDavid win the Hart Trophy as MVP, that’ll be 11 of those.

But the big winner in the announcement package was Oilers general manager Ken Holland, who won’t likely have to give up a third-round draft pick to Calgary in the James Neal-Milan Lucic deal and saw the draft get delayed until after the Stanley Cup is presented.

Holland will now have time to engineer some draft-floor trades of prospects for draft picks with teams like the Ottawa Senators, who have a glut of them. He’ll now also be able to watch which players pass the playoff test and be able to make better decisions.

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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