Ramblings: NHL’s Return to Play; injured players; Kaprizov; Bjugstad surgery – May 28

Michael Clifford

2020-05-28

Gary Bettman had a virtual press conference on Tuesday to announce parts of the NHL's Return to Play plan. Readers can head to NHL.com to read up on the playoff format, the draft lottery, and a few other details about the RTP.

Anyone who has read my Ramblings knows where I stand on this. I don't trust the NHL to keep strict control of safety and I don't trust the players/coaching staffs to be honest about self-administering wellness checks. Patrice Bergeron played with a punctured lung. Is he going to sit out the Cup Finals because his temperature is 99.2 some morning? I hope so, but the entirety of NHL history tells a different story. The 24-team format is also equally dumb for myriad reasons.

All that said, there's nothing that can be done about it. The NHL will do what the NHL wants to do. They can say it's not about economics – Bettman actually said this, and then finished the exact same thought with "the revenue situation is painful," so it's pretty obvious what the reason is. This will be the last I talk about it in these Ramblings, though. You can't fight the wind.

So, let's talk about these playoffs.

I've mentioned in a prior Ramblings about how almost every team will be completely healthy for playoffs, something that never happens. That means Pittsburgh gets Jake Guentzel back, Vladimir Tarasenko will be ready for the postseason, Colorado can reunite MacKinnon with Mikko Rantanen, and Dougie Hamilton will be patrolling Carolina's blue line once more.

Just anecdotally, I think of any single player returning, Hamilton is the most important to his team. All of Guentzel, Rantanen, and Tarasenko are all-stars, of that there is no doubt. But Hamilton was literally one of the best defencemen in the league this year; per Evolving Hockey, he was fifth in the league in WAR/60 minutes among blue liners in 2019-20. When looking at the rest of the blue line, it was basically Jaccob Slavin who had a very good year and that's it.