The rushed off-season following the Stanley Cup playoffs bubble promised to be the most fascinating period of business in NHL history since the lost lockout season of 2004-05. There is certainly a lot to unpack in virtually every market. It has been hard to keep up.
But now that all the trades and all the signings are quietening down, and while the hope and renewal has been cathartic, reality is now starting to set in. And the reality is maybe all this was for not?
Can the NHL have a season in 2020-21? With all the complications of the global pandemic and closed international borders, is it possible to play? Likely not without major changes, which while that can be exciting in itself makes for the new normal to be anything but normal.
Reality is somehow the NHL will have some sort of a season, somehow. But the next two seasons will definitely not be business as usual. The business is fine long term, but there will be very real hurt over the next couple of campaigns. Players, management, owners and franchises will all take a big hit.
The lack of player development in this time span is what I find fascinating. There are so many great young players right now, but what happens if there is no junior or college or minor pro leagues to play in? You can only train in the gym and work with skills coaches one on one on the ice for so long. These players need games to play. The ripple effect of this lack of development will reach for years, as kids in peewee hockey in many regions aren't getting on the ice either.
What I will be watching for going forward is how teams are investing in player development. Because the teams that do that the best will have a big head start when things do return to normal in a couple of years.