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Possible Changes To NHL's 2021 Season
In an ordinary year, the NHL season would currently be in full swing. But of course, 2020 is no regular year and 2021 will be much of the same. Nothing is official yet, but we've organized all the possible changes to NHL's 2021 season right here.
Bettors should read carefully. These changes have the potential to completely turn the league upside down — new divisions, no home-ice advantage, and so much more. NHL betting strategies will need to be adjusted to keep pace with the changes, all of which we'll cover throughout this guide.
When Is The NHL Season Starting Anyway?
There's no hard answer on this one yet, but most signs point to sometime in January. The rumored date was for January 1 — the usual date for the Winter Classic, which has been canceled altogether this season — but that original day is looking more like wishful thinking now. After all, it's about two-and-a-half weeks away and time is ticking.
Anyway, the latest date making the rumor mill is January 13, that according to ESPN insider Emily Kaplan. However, it won't be official until the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA's executive board agree on it and other season changes, too.
Obviously, with the late start time — differing from the usual October beginning — the NHL season won't be 82 games long per usual. The belief is the season will be shortened to either 52 or 56 games.
Is It True — A Canada-Only Division Is Happening?
Unlike other American sports leagues (e.g. the NFL and the NBA), the NHL has much more prominent logistical issues. Why? Welp, seven of its franchises play north of the border in Canada, which just so happens to have entrance to its country closed for non-residents now and for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it's widely believed those seven Canadian teams will break off into a newly-created division composing of only them.
Folks, this is a MASSIVE change — more so than anything else. Effectively, the NHL is reorganizing its entire division structure for the upcoming year, shifting the balance of power in the process. As it stands, this is how divisions are expected to be organized by team:
- Canada division — Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg
- Central division — Carolina, Columbus, Chicago, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, and Tampa Bay
- East division — Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington
- West division — Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Jose, and St. Louis
But here's another big thing: all regular-season games, whatever the final number is, will come against divisional teams only. There will be no cross-divisional matches whatsoever until the postseason. That seriously changes the competitive balance.
Instantly, the West division appears the weakest. That's because three of its eight teams — the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks — haven't played a single game since March. The trio, along with four other teams, weren't invited to the 24-team playoff this past season after the league returned from its initial postponement due to the pandemic.
On the flip side, the strongest division might be the East. The combined winning percentage of its eight teams last season was 59.6 (by comparison, the West is a measly 53.7 percent).
Will Games Be Contested In A Hub?
Yep, it's looking more and more likely that mini-hubs will be established to house a series of games this next year.
Here's how it'll work: a specific arena will be designed as the hub for a 10-to-12-day period. All divisional teams will enter this hub and play against each other during the stretch, with or without fans (depending on local regulations). Creating these hub cuts down on travel and in theory, lowers the risk of infection since proper protocols will be put in place during the arena stay.
It's not exactly a bubble like the one used during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's because teams will be allowed to travel back home following the hub stint to be with their families before entering a new hub and repeating the whole ordeal.
No word yet on which cities will become playing hubs. But we'd imagine it be the same locations that were in the running to host the previous postseason bubble — Chicago, Colombus, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, as well the eventual bubble winners, Edmonton and Toronto.
Any Betting Advice To Handle All These Changes?
With so much uncertainty, NHL betting odds are hard to come by from online bookies. As of right now, you'll find Stanley Cup championship futures and that's about it:
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+750||+800|
|Las Vegas Golden Knights||+850||+800|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1300||+1400|
Our advice is to wait to wager, for now at least. Again, the proposed changes we just outlined aren't a done deal quite yet. Once an agreement is officially signed and sealed, we can move ahead.
One thing is for sure: you can't just stick to old hockey betting methods and expect to replicate the same success. Like the league itself, you'll need to evolve your strategy.
That includes putting little to no emphasis on home advantage since that likely won't be a thing in 2021. In the same token, strength of schedule has never been more real than it'll be this next season.
Either way, buckle up for a wild, never-seen-before year in the NHL. If you need an online sportsbook to get betting action throughout the season, then take a gander at our partners below. At any one of them, you'll find odds for all hockey games, plus killer promotions to earn free rewards.
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