Hockey coming back? Happy Anniversary Messier Guarantee

On this nice Memorial Day in the New York and New Jersey area, we are thankful for our health and loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank our vets including my cool Uncle Bunk, who served in the 1950’s. Without them, there is nothing to celebrate. They made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

It is still a strange time on this Monday the 25th of May. The final Monday of the month already. By next week, it’ll officially be June. A warmer time with summer around the corner. Normally, both the NHL and NBA are into the final round of their playoffs with teams battling to be crowned champs. Baseball is in full swing and both golf and tennis are near the halfway point of their major seasons.

Instead, here we are on Memorial Day weekend with Nascar back and a match that featured Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson raising money for COVID relief on Sunday. It’s again the emergency healthcare medical workers who are the ultimate heroes working around the clock to keep America safe. It’s essential workers who deserve a thank you for helping keep things sane during a not so normal time.

Three paragraphs in and I’m finally about to get to the hockey part of this blog. What once was a interesting season with playoff battles for positioning and wildcards is now a question of a proposed radical idea that would change the outlook for everyone. How do you really feel about a 24 Team NHL Playoff Tournament that would include essentially a play in round between eight extra teams featuring best of five series to advance?

That would include the Rangers and Hurricanes in one series along with the Islanders and Panthers. The Canadiens would also be part of it despite only 71 points. The entire Central Division including the last place Blackhawks, whose 72 points trail the wildcard by six, would also take part. To be frank, it’s a strange concept. I’m not too fond of having 24 of 31 teams competing in say the start of July for the postseason. You can’t call it a traditional Stanley Cup. It isn’t. They’re trying to save face ‘if’ the CDC regulations in a full contact sport allows the players of each team to compete in select arenas.

There are risks. The same that apply to MLB, who proposed a list so big on rules and regulations, that some players might balk at the 82 game proposal. Blake Snell doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about playing for less dollars and cents with a proposed 50/50 split between players and owners. We don’t even know what the NHL and NHLPA will agree to in terms of how to keep everyone including coaches, officials, trainers, medical staff, engineers and cameramen safe without fans. That also includes hotels. It’s an issue that each league including the NBA face if they do return to complete the ’19-20 seasons.

For more observations on the proposed tournament, suggestions for a potential off-season this Fall and future ideas to create more rivalry games during whenever the next 82 game season is, please refer to my video blog below. I did include some wrestling around the 40 minute mark and other thoughts as well. It’s mostly hockey from five minutes in and over half the Vlog. All recorded last night.

In regards to a potential best of five preliminary series versus the Hurricanes, the Rangers should have the edge in goal with rookie Igor Shesterkin and even backups Alex Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist over Carolina tandem Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. If Dougie Hamilton isn’t able to return for the Canes, that’s a big hit for their blueline. They do boast some experience up front in Justin Williams, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Staal. But Jaccob Slavin would have to carry the load along with Brett Pesce.

One would think the dynamic duo of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad would do damage in a short series. Especially with a healthy Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. The Rangers back end isn’t great either, but with superb puck movers such as Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox, they would be dangerous in transition and on the power play. The wildcard would be Kaapo Kakko.

If they were to advance, they could be a dark horse in such a tournament. That’s all I have to say for now. Let’s wait and see if it actually happens. There’s still likely a month to go.

Happy Anniversary to this guy above. Mark Messier, who delivered with a natural hat trick on his Guarantee 26 years ago in Game Six against the Devils. Only reason I knew was Howie Rose mentioned it while interviewing Gary Thorne on WFAN with Suzyn Waldman. Hard to believe.

I’m glad that Knicks legend Patrick Ewing is out of the hospital and hopefully, on his way to a strong recovery from the Coronavirus. Be good and safe out there.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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