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Coyotes’ Ekman-Larsson, rival captains weigh resuming NHL season

Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Arizona Coyotes and Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skate after a loose puck during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on January 12, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Oilers defeated the Coyotes 4-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Four captains of teams in the NHL’s Pacific Division stared into webcams on Friday as they answered questions in a conference call with media.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has changed a lot about how we live our lives, and the relationship between sports and media is no exception. Pre-submitted questions were read on the live chat to players, who answered from their domiciles that ranged from Scottsdale to Ontario.

The foursome — Edmonton star Connor McDavid, Vancouver’s Bo Horvat, Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano and the Coyotes’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson — sifted through the different ways the NHL could go about getting back on the ice, which is sure to result in the season going far later than originally scheduled. The NHL paused on March 12.

The four had different perspectives, if for no other reason than their respective spots in the standings. McDavid’s Oilers and Giordano’s Flames held divisional playoff spots at the time of the season pause. Horvat’s Canucks and Ekman-Larsson’s Coyotes were out of playoff spots entirely.

It’s unclear whether the league could feasibly play more regular season games, depending on how long the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the sport. Arizona still had 12 games left when the season stopped, but some have suggested skipping the rest of the regular season. One suggestion gaining popularity holds that a 24-team playoff be conducted out of fairness to the bubble teams.

“In a perfect world, you want to play the regular season out and let it play out, so whoever gets in gets in,” Giordano said. “But I don’t think realistically we’re going to have that time, so the best one I think I’ve heard is — you can’t eliminate teams who are out on points percentage or stuff like that — I think you go 12 and 12 and more teams get in this year, maybe a couple byes at the top and play it out.”

Giordano said it would be challenging to go from not playing at all to jumping straight into the playoffs. Even a couple games before the playoffs, he said, could be beneficial.

“Either go by points percentage or play some more regular season games,” Horvat said. “Obviously to make it completely fair, you’d want to play regular season games and have more games to get in. But if we’re going to start playoffs right away, [then determine the teams] by [points] percentage and I think that would put us in. But it’s tough to make that call, that’s for sure.”

As Horvat said, the Canucks would be in the playoffs if the NHL were to resume and go straight to a postseason, as long as the league determined the playoff teams by points percentage. Just using point total that’s irrespective to games played, the Canucks would be one spot out of the Wild Card.

The Coyotes are fifth in the Wild Card race, meaning they still had more work to do in the regular season if they wanted to get into a playoff spot.

“I think it’s only fair to start where we left off here,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I think it would be good for the playoffs, too, to get those games to really get going again and get into a playoff spot and be ready for a really good playoffs. I think that would benefit all of us. And like everybody else said, I think it’d be a really good playoffs because we’ve been getting a lot of rest and everybody’s going to be healthy when we get back.”

Meanwhile, the Oilers are pretty firmly in a playoff spot for the time being.

“I think they look pretty good right now,” McDavid joked about the standings. “But obviously … a fair season’s a full season. So if we can do that then that’s what we’d obviously prefer, but I don’t think we can just step into playoffs and Game 1, Calgary come to Edmonton and guys just run around and kill each other and haven’t played a game in two months.”


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