Avalanche television analyst Peter McNab has more questions than answers about what Phase 4 will feel like for players and fans when the NHL’s proposed 24-team Stanley Cup playoff begins in late July or early August.
McNab only knows he will call Avs games on Altitude TV with play-by-play man Marc Moser off television feeds in separate rooms in Denver. Each NHL team can send a 50-member traveling party to a hub city, but the Avs-owned regional sports network will work its allotted games from Colorado.
“It’s absolutely impossible to say you have any knowledge of what’s going to happen because this is so uncharted,” McNab said.
Questions abound for a long-time broadcaster who has spent more than 40 years in the NHL, including 11 as a player. McNab, 68, has questions about forbidding players the nightlife at their hub city and why the league is reportedly considering having the Western Conference play out of the Eastern Time Zone (likely Toronto) and the Eastern Conference play in the Mountain (likely Edmonton) or Pacific (Las Vegas is reportedly out because of rising Covid-19 numbers).
He also wonders how the Avs will use their two goalies in preliminary-round games against St. Louis, Vegas and Dallas — three games that will seed the top of the traditional 16-team playoff bracket. Colorado could end up playing any of the four teams who win their best-of-five play-in series.
About forcing players to live in a “bubble” that includes the team hotel, team bus, practice rink and game arena, McNab said that’s unrealistic — particularly with the teams that reach the conference quarterfinals and beyond.
“Say you make a run for it one night with three, four guys. You’re not trying to do anything stupid. You just got to get out of the hotel,” McNab said. “It’s just one of those things that, on paper, ‘Ok this could work.’ But we’re not on paper. These are humans. These are young men. Emotions are going to run high. You’re going to win a series and you’re going to celebrate in your room? Or the banquet hall at the hotel? It’s the human element of this thing.”
Las Vegas was the likely western hub until Tuesday when Nevada showed a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases. Now the leader is Edmonton, where cases are very low and the Canadian dollar would save the NHL money — similar to Toronto in the Eastern Time Zone.
“A 7 o’clock game in Vegas is 10 o’clock back east,” McNab said before Las Vegas was nixed from contention. “As a fan, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
The Avs, who have two No. 1 goalies in Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, are currently the West’s No. 2 seed, and among eight teams that will avoid the best-of-five play-in round. But they’ll have to get up to speed with the three games against the Blues, Golden Knights and Stars before opening a seven-game series against one of four teams.
“The Avalanche plays those three games, and say they win all three, finish first. And Chicago surprises Edmonton. Well, then, you play 12 — 1 plays 12,” McNab said. “The other way, the Avalanche loses all three and become the 4 seed, and Edmonton beats Chicago, well then it’s 4-5 and away you go. Then there’s every variation in between. I feel bad for the video coach and pre-scouting guys because they have to scout eight teams to prepare for their first round!”
In the end, it could be a lot of fun, but …
“There’s always going to be an asterisk beside it. We’ll always talk about 2020,” McNab said.