All Bruce Cassidy wants when hockey returns is for things to be fair.
The Boston Bruins were one of the best teams in the NHL wire to wire in 2019-20 — from the time the season started to the time it paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league appears to be working tirelessly to get the campaign back up and running, with one of the ideas getting kicked around being a 24-team playoff.
During an appearance Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich,” the Bruins head coach admitted he’s waiting until more is known, like everyone else.
“Well, I’m going to be honest, there’s not a whole lot out there because I think everyone still — there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of unknowns,” Cassidy said. “I mean, I can tell you they’ve discussed adding teams, not your typical 16, playing some sort of games. That’s where there’s still discussion: is it adding to the regular season. I think originally they wanted to finish it, to get in as many games and get all the teams together.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen now. Will it be 24 or will it be 20 (teams)? My guess is it will fall somewhere in there, it won’t just be 16. And then your typical, straight four-out-of-seven series, because I think the players want to get some games in before they go right into the playoffs. So how many that ends up being, like I said, I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’ll be more than 16.”
Some have said that going to a 24-team playoff system, which lets in pretty much every “bubble team” from the time the season paused, could lessen the impact of the regular season.
For that reason, Cassidy is hoping that whatever resolution is determined, it doesn’t punish the Bruins for playing well this season.
“Well, from our position, I’d rather it just be 16, and I’d rather it just be — again this is just me and you talking, I don’t have a say in all of this — but I’d rather it be 16 teams, four rounds of four-out-of-seven, let’s go,” Cassidy said. That’s the integrity of the playoffs. It’s always been that way. I understand the players’ perspective wanting to get some games in before that, because it gets ramped up in a hurry, playoff hockey there’s no holds barred so off you go. And I think that’s tough on the players.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be unfair for somebody down the road, that’s just the way it is. Even if you go with 16, what about the two teams down at the bottom, there’s the points versus the points percentage. Sometimes I think, you know what, nobody’s going to remember if you do a blind draw, one team is in, one team is out. They’re not going to remember that a year from now, it’s still a legitimate playoff. But hopefully we get to that 16 in the right way and it doesn’t hurt us. I guess that’s where I’m coming from, is that hopefully we don’t get kind of screwed in this process, because we shouldn’t be. We should be rewarded for our regular season. But I don’t think any scenario is going to be perfectly fair, I understand that.”
That said, Cassidy likes his group, regardless of what a return-to-play plan looks like.
“I’m just hopeful we get a chance to play, to be honest with you,” Cassidy said. “I love our chances no matter how it shakes out. But you’re right, to a certain extent, it may hurt us the way they configure this thing.”