- The NHL is expected to go with a 56-game regular season, with a hopeful start date of Jan. 13
- Due to the COVID-19 border closure, all seven Canadian teams will be housed in their own division
- The 24 American teams will be also be realigned into three new divisional formats
The NHL drew rave reviews for its return to play format last summer. The five rounds of NHL playoffs went off without a hitch. In the midst of a global pandemic, there wasn't one positive COVID-19 test among NHL personnel.
It's back! pic.twitter.com/5SRQKF72ce— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) December 15, 2020
However, that was accomplished in a bubble set up, with the Western Conference teams isolated in Edmonton and the Eastern Conference clubs quarantined in Toronto. For the upcoming regular season, that won't be the case. Like MLB and the NFL, the NHL season will be contested with COVID-19 protocols put into place, but team personnel will come and go from the rink.
As both baseball and football have discovered, it's proven impossible to shut COVID-19 out of the picture. Both MLB and NFL seasons felt the wrath of the pandemic and were forced to postpone games and rearrange schedules due to team outbreaks.
Divisional realignment is a must for the NHL this season. Due to the pandemic, the Canada-USA border isn't about to be opening up anytime soon. With seven Canadian franchises in the league, it isn't going to be as simple as getting the one Canadian club to temporarily relocate to the United States, which is what both the MLB (Toronto Blue Jays) and NBA (Toronto Raptors) did.
The NHL will be left with no choice but to locate its Canadian teams - the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets - in a separate division.
If there is an all Canadian @NHL division which 4 of the 7 teams do you think would make the playoffs? pic.twitter.com/OxPm3WqJ9U— Paul Almeida (@AzorcanGlobal) October 16, 2020
They'll play an interlocking schedule against only each other since border crossing won't be feasible.
Bovada is offering a prop wager that the league will go this route. The NHL hockey odds favor there being a Canadian Division this season. Yes is the odds-on -220 favorite. Bet no at odds of +150.
Who Is Canada's Team To Beat?
There is also a betting line at Bovada on which team will win this planned Canadian Division. Last season, the Oilers (83) collected the most points, just ahead of Toronto (81) and Winnipeg (80). However, it was the Canucks who went the furthest in postseason play, reaching the Stanley Cup final four.
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+170|
The NHL odds favor the Leafs to win the Canadian Division at +170. Edmonton (+250) is next. Bettors can access +750 odds on both the Canucks and Canadiens.
Nope² pic.twitter.com/IHblkQrDd8— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 15, 2020
The Flames, one of the NHL's best clubs in the second half of last season, shored up their goaltending with the addition of free agent Jacob Markstrom and offer great value at +600.
The NHL Vegas odds are listing the Colorado Avalanche as +600 favorites to win the Stanley Cup. If the online sportsbooks were to list betting lines on the likelihood of COVID-19 disruptions to the season, those would definitely be given at negative odds.
Both players and owners are working on solutions to try and make certain those missteps have a limited impact of how the season will play out. A one-week layoff for an NFL team results in one game being rescheduled. In the NHL, a one-week shutdown could mean the cancelation of 3-4 games.
For clarification...— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) December 11, 2020
The NHL is interested in securing vaccine when and if it’s available for private purchase.
Is it at this point? — no.
The league also is adamant they would not jump the line to do so.
It's anticipated that windows of off-days will be built into schedules to enable any postponed games to be made up. As well, the league is also looking at the possibility of adopting a schedule format similar to baseball, where the same two teams would play each other three games in succession. This formula could help limit any impact a COVID-19 outbreak would have in terms of how many teams would need to be shut down.
Roster Size An Issue
During a normal season, NHL teams carry 23-player rosters. However, factoring in that the American Hockey League, the NHL's top farm league, won't be in action earlier than Feb. 5, teams will need to carry taxi squads of extra players.
Lots discussed on #NHLPA Exec Board call today, much of which is still in discussion/negotiation with #NHL.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 9, 2020
Talk of expanded rosters, from 23 to 26, with 4 additional taxi squad members for total of 30. Taxi squad could earn AHL salary but receive NHL benefits and per diem.
This will be necessary to deal with both potential COVID-19 outbreaks as well as the usual rash of injuries that are incurred during a season.
Where To Bet On NHL Canadian Division
There are a number of leading online sports betting sites that will provide bettors the chance to place a wager on NHL Canadian Division action. The best bet you can make is to shop around in advance and seek out the best deal before joining one of these sportsbooks. Check out BetUS and MyBookie as examples.
The signup bonus offers that are in place at all of these recommended sites will prove advantageous to the bettor. And since you'll get a good deal wherever you go, why not shop around and find the best fit for your needs?
There's still hope the NHL and NHLPA will finalize an agreement on protocols/critical dates/transition rules for the 2020-21 season in the coming days. The back and forth continues as the clock ticks towards Jan. 13.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 14, 2020
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