We’ve been spared from more Sharks hockey this season

The NHL has ruled the season to be complete as of the pause mid-March, ending the Sharks’ season.

Our collective nightmare of the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks season has officially come to an end, as league commissioner Gary Bettman announced this afternoon that the NHL will be entering “Phase 2” of the league’s Return to Play Plan, after the NHLPA and the league’s Board of Governors voted to approve the 24-team playoff structure this weekend. Only two teams — the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, who would both make playoffs under this structure — voted against the proposal.

Among the decisions to be made before entering Phase 2 was the determination on the regular season’s standings, where the Sharks were positioned at the bottom of the Western Conference prior to the season pause. The 2019-20 season has been deemed complete as of March 11, and the remaining 189 games previously scheduled will not be made up. Standings will be determined by points percentage.

Instead, the top 24 teams in each conference will be heading to a postseason of sorts, though a play-in round that is nebulously neither playoffs nor the regular season will bridge the gap between determining which teams that theoretically could’ve been bubble teams will officially make the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Each conference will also be assigned a host city, differing from early expectations that the NHL would aim for four hub cities.  An interesting note: the seeding round will include regular season overtime rules, while the qualifying rounds will use playoff overtime rules, which further complicates what anything that happens in these games will be recorded as.

Here’s what the tournament will look like:

Eastern Conference

Round Robin for Seeding in First Round

1. Boston Bruins
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Washington Capitals
4. Philadelphia Flyers

Best-of-5 Qualifying Round

#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens
#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers
#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference

Round Robin for Seeding in First Round

1. St. Louis Blues
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Vegas Golden Knights
4. Dallas Stars

Best-of-5 Qualifying Round

#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks
#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes
#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild
#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets

This part of the plan is considered Phase 4, but agreeing to terms was part of reaching Phase 2, where players are now allowed to begin small training sessions, as local regulations allow. Teams cannot require players to return to to their host cities yet, but by early June, the NHL expects to be in Phase 2. Phase 3 is less clearly defined right now, but will likely involve training camps and moving players to host cities. This won’t move forward for at least a month, “not earlier than first half of July,” and under the guidance of health officials.

All of that leaves the Sharks with a disappointing 29-36-5 record and .450 points percentage and one of just seven teams not making the playoffs — the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres will be in the draft lottery, scheduled for Friday, June 26. The Sharks’ original pick belongs to the Senators, though the team acquired a late first-round pick from Tampa Bay in exchange for Barclay Goodrow at the trade deadline.

For some reason (presumably to draw in views while shelter-in-place and social distancing orders are still in place), the NHL is doing the Draft lottery in two phases, using placeholders to signify the additional eight teams who will lose their play-in round. Should one of those placeholders win a lottery position (one of the top three picks), there will be a secondary draft lottery after the play-in round.

Here are the lottery odds, as laid out in the release:

2020 NHL Draft Lottery Odds

1. Detroit Red Wings0.27518.50%
2. Ottawa Senators0.43713.50%
3. Ottawa Senators*0.43711.50%
4. Los Angeles Kings0.4579.50%
5. Anaheim Ducks0.4728.50%
6. New Jersey Devils.493**7.50%
7. Buffalo Sabres.493**6.50%
8. Team An/a6.00%
9. Team Bn/a5.00%
10. Team Cn/a3.50%
11. Team Dn/a3.00%
12. Team En/a2.50%
13. Team Fn/a2.00%
14. Team Gn/a1.50%
15. Team Hn/a1.00%

* Acquired in a trade with San Jose Sharks (.450 points percentage)

** Buffalo Sabres ranked higher than New Jersey Devils on the basis of higher regulation/OT win percentage (Buffalo, .406 ROW%; New Jersey, .348 ROW%)

There will be three draws for each of the top three picks. If the team is not a placeholder, they own that pick and will not be eligible for an additional lottery draw. If any of the draws result in a placeholder, then a second phase of the draft lottery will happen prior to the first round of playoffs. Only those eight teams are eligible for Phase 2 of the draft lottery and all of the teams will have the same odds while another draw is made for the pick(s) that have placeholders.

After all lottery picks have been assigned, and the play-in rounds have been completed, the remaining 12 teams that did not win a draw will be assigned picks in the inverse order of their points percentages at the time of the season’s pause.

As for when the draft will happen, that is still a moving target. With an agreed upon Return to Play Plan, it’s assumed the draft won’t take place before the season is concluded, which will run into the fall. Bettman didn’t rule out as far as January for a 2020-21 season start, giving them a longer timeline to work with, especially if they opt for a digital draft.

There’s a possibility we won’t see Sharks hockey again until January 2021. The last game of the season was a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

How are y’all spending the next seven months?