Kings and Ducks done for season, but SoCal fans still could get to see playoff hockey
The Kings’ and Ducks’ season is over, as the NHL unveiled a 24-team restart format Tuesday that excludes the clubs along with the other bottom-seven teams in the standings.
So, with the offseason finally on the horizon, here’s a primer on what Southern California hockey fans can look forward to.
The NHL modified its draft lottery. How does that impact the Ducks’ and Kings’ odds of getting the top pick?
Not at all, actually. As the 27th- and 28th-place teams in the standings, respectively, the Ducks and Kings have the same lottery odds for the No. 1 overall pick as they would in a normal season. The Kings will have a 9.5% chance of the top selection. The Ducks are at 8.5%.
The lottery process, however, received a major makeover, as detailed by commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday. Instead of one lottery drawing with all non-playoff teams, this summer’s lottery potentially will take place in two phases. The first, which will be held June 26, will include all seven teams whose seasons are over, plus eight “placeholder” spots for the teams eliminated in the pre-playoff qualification round.
If any of the top three picks, which will be drawn separately, are awarded to one of those eight “placeholder” spots, there will be a second phase to the lottery at a later date to decide which team (or teams) eliminated in the qualification round will fill each position. Otherwise, the rest of the draft order will be determined by the reverse order of the final regular-season standings.
Even if the Kings are done, could Los Angeles host playoff games this summer?
Bettman identified Los Angeles as one of the 10 cities under consideration for the two “hub” locations that will host games in spectator-less arenas when the season resumes, at the earliest, in July.
“We are honored to be included in consideration as an NHL hub city,” Kings chief operating officer Kelly Cheeseman said. “We know L.A. Live and Staples Center will be well prepared given their collective history of hosting showcase events, so we look forward to the outcome.”
Indeed, Staples Center, which is equipped with a dehumidification system with a built-in air cleanser, and the surrounding L.A. Live complex, which includes ample hotel space plus underground tunnel access to the arena, give the market an advantage. So does the fact that the city isn’t subject to the same 14-day quarantine requirements currently in place in Canada, nor would it create a potential home-ice advantage with the Kings out of the playoffs.
The NHL revealed its plan to return to play. The Kings and Ducks won’t be involved; they’re among the teams that will move to a modified draft lottery.
Still, it’s unclear how strong of a contender Los Angeles is compared to the other locations under consideration: Las Vegas, Edmonton, Vancouver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Toronto.
Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s hope of hosting spectator-less sporting events as soon as June, the local government still has some of the stricter stay-at-home orders in the U.S. Also, the city offers fewer options for practice rinks than other locations. The Kings’ three-rink training facility in El Segundo is the most logical host site for non-gameday training activities, but is more than 15 miles away from Staples Center. Pickwick Ice Center in Burbank would be another potential option.
Will next season still be held in full? Will fans be allowed to attend?
Bettman reiterated the NHL’s expectation to complete a full 2020-21 season, even if the start of the campaign is delayed until the new year.
It’s too soon to know whether or not fans will be able to return to arenas — in either full or partial capacities — for the start of the schedule, but Bettman told reporters he was hopeful fans would be present. He also left open the possibility of hosting later rounds of this season’s playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Final, in the home cities of the competing teams, reiterating, “It depends on what the world looks like.”
What else do we know about the offseason? Next preseason? And when will the Kings and Ducks get together again?
There are still many unknowns when it comes to the offseason. The draft has yet to be scheduled but reportedly is being planned for after the postseason. A free-agency market that normally opens July 1 undoubtedly will be impacted, as could the salary cap after roughly 15% of the season was scrapped.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly addressed concerns about non-playoff teams having extra-long layoffs, hinting to reporters there could be new offseason rules as a result.