Cam Neely thinks the Bruins deserve more from the NHL’s plan to resume, but at this point, the team’s president is just happy to be playing hockey.
Under the league’s plan to return to play, which was announced Tuesday, the would-be top-seed Bruins will play a round-robin tournament with the other leading teams in the Eastern Conference – Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia – to determine playoff seeding.
“It’s a little frustrating, based on what the team accomplished in the first 70 games, that in three round-robin games we could go from first overall in the league to fourth in the conference once the playoffs start,” Neely wrote in an email to The Boston Globe Wednesday.
“Mind you, we are excited to have the possibility to play playoff hockey this year.”
The Bruins led the league with 100 points (44-14-12) when the season was paused on March 12 due to the developing coronavirus pandemic. When the NHL announced its playoff plan Tuesday, it also announced the conclusion of the regular season. The Bruins were awarded the Presidents’ Trophy (best regular-season record), while David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, and Jaroslav Halak earned individual honors.
The defending champion St. Louis Blues held the top seed in the Western Conference when play was suspended. They will face Colorado, Vegas, and Dallas in their own round-robin tournament.
Seeds 9-24 will partake in a best-of-five play-in round to determine who moves on to face the top seeds.
“We considered lots of options,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday. “By getting a bye, [top seeds] are going to face a team that just came out of a competitive series.
“The concern was, they needed to have some competition that might not put them at risk in terms of the playoffs, but would give them an opportunity to play some real games.”
The league is pushing for a bracket set-up for the later rounds of the playoffs, but Neely noted on a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday that he would prefer a reseeding of teams following the first sets of games. Bettman said players have also expressed desire for a reseed, and a vote is expected soon.
Before the playoffs begin, small groups will be allowed to begin voluntary workouts at team facilities. Neely estimated that the team’s practice facility, Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, would be able to accommodate three rotating groups of six players. Players returning to the city from out-of-state will quarantine for 14 days upon their return, per Gov. Charlie Baker’s order.
“From what I understand talking to some of the guys, they’re anxious and excited,” Neely said. “They have some questions and concerns about how this is all going to play out, but everybody still wants to play hockey.”