The 2019-20 NHL season has been put on pause since March 12 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the league brainstorming about potentially playing into the summer, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty doesn't believe that the NHL can complete the season.
"Honestly, I don't see how this season is going to return. I really don't," Doughty said during a conference call on Monday. "We have no idea when this virus is going to be over. We're all kind of just sitting at home, just hoping to return to the season or hoping to watch the playoffs return. But we're just sitting here, waiting, working out, being ready to return at any point. I think the NHL would have to make some kind of decision on that soon, and it seems like it's pretty tough to resume the season or the playoffs."
Doughty is easily the biggest name to reveal that he thinks that the season should be canceled. In all, there are 189 regular season games remaining on the league's schedule and several playoff races are still neck-in-neck.
The NHL has played the large majority of its season with teams playing as many as 71 games and as few as 68. The Boston Bruins hold an eight-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic Division crown, but in the other three divisions, there are three points or less between the top two teams.
In the wake of the COVID-19 virus, NHL players have been told to steer clear of team facilities and self-isolate through April 15.
"It's what's going on in the whole world. I mean, everything just keeps getting delayed even more, with lockdowns and things like that," Doughty added. "People are dying, more every day. I don't see how or when we're going to be able to make a decision to return to the season," Doughty said. "And then when that comes into play, you have to figure out all the logistics after that. So it seems very, very hard to be able to do. But us players are going to be ready for whatever."
It's unclear what the process would be if the 2019-20 season were to return and be pushed into the summer. The players would need some sort of training camp to get back into playing shape before taking the ice for regular season games.
Commissioner Gary Bettman recently revealed that players would need two to three weeks to get back into playing shape. The league has contemplated the idea of having neutral sites for the remainder of the season's games with.
"I don't know what I'm working out for, exactly. They've been telling us we can come back at any time," Doughty said. "We never really got a break. I don't know if they cancel the season if we get a break. We only got about four days without training. I like to take at least three or four weeks off. I don't really know what's going on here."
Of course, the biggest issue is how late the league would be willing to go in the calendar to finish off the 2019-20 season. The playoffs may need to be altered even if they do play because the season dragging late into the summer could affect the 2020-21 season.
The NHL obviously wants to crown a Stanley Cup champion, but Doughty just thinks that such an objective may not be possible.
"I know they want to give out the Stanley Cup this year but in all seriousness, it's not going to be like winning a real Stanley Cup because the season wasn't finished," Doughty added. "There are teams that couldn't get in the playoffs, and I'm assuming they'd have to come up with a different format for it."