The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies celebrate their 2019 Memorial Cup victory
Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control issued a statement that recommended that events of 50 or more people be canceled for the next eight weeks. This effectively eliminates the ability to play a hockey game, or any other sporting event, for that duration of time. This means that rather than the Memorial Cup being rewarded on May 31st, the CHL would be just starting back up in mid-late May. This all assumes that the eight-week period not be extended for any reason. If that eight-week is extended, even by an additional two-to-four weeks, the CHL can effectively kiss this season goodbye.
For now, we look at things as optimistically as possible and assume that the eight-week hiatus from here on out is all that is needed to help stave off the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the leagues around the world, CHL included, can start back up. Now to take a look at how the playoffs in the three leagues across the CHL can get to the playoffs and how we could squeeze them in.
How we get to the Playoffs
The first question we have to ask in each league is how to finish up the playoff races. That all depends on the situations at hand. Across the CHL, each league has a vast majority of playoff spots spoken for and for each of those teams, the regular season should effectively be done. They have their spot and although seeding would have been up for debate, the current situation is going to warrant sacrifices from all sides in order to get the playoffs in and this may be one of them. Each team in the three CHL leagues has played at least 62 games, aside from the Mississauga Steelheads who have played 61 and have two games in hand on the Barrie Colts in pursuit if 5th place in the conference. If they win those games in hand, they still don’t catch Barrie. For that reason, we don’t worry about those games. This situation plays out in all three leagues to varying degrees but again, sacrifices likely need to be made by all sides.
Deciding the final seed in the QMJHL Playoffs
The QMJHL uses a 1-16 playoff format
QMJHL Standings at Suspension of the Season
Above we see the final few seeds for the QMJHL Playoffs and we can start to take a look at ho they can sort this out and start the playoffs upon the resumption of the season. As previously stated, we are going to set the clinched teams into stone and lock them into their seeding. In the QMJHL that leaves one final playoff spot. Acadie-Bathurst can be taken out of the equation and we are left with the Halifax Mooseheads (63 GP, 45 points) and Gatineau Olympiques (64 GP, 49 points). The Mooseheads have a game in hand but trail by four points. This would bring them within two points. That gap is small and deserves a fair chance. Assuming playoffs would start on the weekend after the lockdown is lifted, roughly May 15th, that leaves a few days for a two-game home-and-home series on the Monday and Wednesday between Halifax and Gatineau, with the winner being decided on aggregate. For those unfamiliar with aggregate, it is often used in soccer to determine two-game series based on goal differential between the two games. Road goals generally being worth more than home goals on a tie break. This could lead to QMJHL Playoff Bracket looking like this.
Potential QMJHL Playoff Bracket
Deciding the OHL Final Seeds
The OHL uses a 1-8 Conference playoff matchup
OHL Standings at Suspension of Season
With the standings above being what the OHL has to work with, we can look at how to finish seeding each conference. In the Eastern Conference, we can give the Owen Sound Attack the seventh seed as they have a 5-point lead and although haven’t clinched their spot yet, it’s safe to say that they can be given a spot as the lead doesn’t lend itself to being overtaken with such few games left in the regular season. As for the eighth seed, the Erie Otters and Soo Greyhounds are currently a single point apart and with Erie’s game in hand going their way, they would be ahead by three points. This small gap again lends itself to the aggregate model that we previously used. Erie and the Soo can play a two-game, home-and-home series. The winner gets the final seed. In the Western Conference, the Niagara Ice Dogs and the Kingston Frontenacs are tied at 42 points with the Frontenacs holding the game in hand. This small gap between these two teams lends itself to the aggregate model as well. Why fix what isn’t broken (or really in use because this is all an imaginary exercise)?
The OHL Playoffs could look something like this:
Potential OHL Playoff Bracket
Deciding the Final Seeds in the WHL
The WHL uses a divisional playoffs format with Wildcards, similar to the NHL model
The WHL has almost every playoff spot locked up. The divisional spots are going to be locked in as all nine spots across the four divisions have been accounted for. The second and third seed in each division will play each other and then the top division winner will play the lowest wildcard team in each conference. The division standings are below. The Western Conference is on the right, Eastern Conference on the left.
WHL Divisional Standings at the Suspension of Play
When it comes to the wildcard seeding, three of the four spots have been locked up with only
WHL Wild Card Standings at Suspension of Play
When taking a look at the WHL wildcard standings we can see the one unlocked spot belongs to the Seattle Thunderbirds who hold a seven-point lead over the Prince George Cougars. With such a large gap, we can safely give the final wildcard spot to Seattle, which effectively eliminates the Cougars who likely had no chance of catching the Thunderbirds as it was. This leaves the WHL Playoffs looking something like this.
Potential WHL Playoff Bracket
Changes to the Playoff Format
The easiest way to speed things up for the playoffs is to shorten the series. While we all crave the drama that is a game seven, we can get the same thrill from a game five. Each league would be able to make the first two rounds of the playoffs five-game series while allowing conference and league finals to stay at seven-game series.
This small change can help shave up to two weeks off the playoffs. Assuming they start on the weekend of May 15th, the league finals fo each league could be played roughly just past the mid-point of June. The playoffs in each league would come fast and furious as games would likely be more tightly packed, series would be unpredictable due to the layoff that each team would suffer from, likely with a week or two of practice to play catc-up towards the end of the eight-week lockdown period, as a practice could be run with under 50 people present.
Memorial Cup on Canada Day
The Memorial Cup is one of the most special trophies in hockey. It has represented major junior hockey across Canada for over 100 years with the 2020 edition of the CHL Championship being the 102nd time it’s been awarded. What better way to help reinvigorate the interest in the tournament than having the Memorial Cup tournament in Kelowna play its final game on Canada Day 2020. It would be symbolic in that it is Canada’s greatest trophy not named Stanley.
The play-in two-game aggregate series would start things off in each of the three CHL leagues and then be followed by fast and furious playoffs and a Canada Day rewarding of the Memorial Cup. If the CHL does come back and decides that they want to push this season forward to reward the league championships along with the 102nd Memorial Cup, this path that I’ve laid out combines the ability to draw fans back into the CHL after a two-plus month layoff and speeds up the process of getting the leagues right into playoffs to make up for the lost time. While there are issues with this format and obviously there would be a boatload more to work out when looking at finer details, this layout is feasible if the league can return to play after the CDC’s recommended eight-week layoff. If not, then the 2021 Memorial Cup will likely be the 102nd time it is awarded.
Thanks for joining me for my weekly ramblings, talking all things prospects. Feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out the Dobber Prospects February Draft Report! This month I took a look at the biggest risers and fallers, an All-Under 5’10” team, and a profile on Marat Khusnutdinov.
Make sure you check out the full Dobber Prospects 2020 NHL DRAFT PAGE! There are over 60 player profiles and a ton more draft content including the January Draft Report with a full breakdown of myMid-Season Top-100 Rankings with video and analysis on 60+ players including nearly every player in the top-40!