Joel Quenneville would love another shot at catching the Maple Leafs.
The coach of the Florida Panthers knows that might not happen.
As Quenneville waits out the National Hockey League pause brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, he has spent some time pondering the avenues the NHL is considering once the green light is given to return to the ice.
If — and it’s a big if — there is a resumption of the 2019-20 regular season before playoffs would begin, the Panthers would start in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, with three points separating them from the Leafs and third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers won their final two games before the pause halted play on March 12 and had a points percentage of .565 in 69 games. The Leafs, after beating Tampa Bay in their final game, were at .579 in 70 games. Had the Leafs lost to the Lightning in regulation on the night of March 10, they would have had a points percentage of .564.
“That’s how close it was going into it and that’s how close we could be coming out of it as well,” Quenneville said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “You’re always ready to go and players and coaching staffs, we are eager to go.
“We’re listening to different situations (the NHL is thinking of), whether there is going to be neutral sites, you have a tournament format, whether they’re going to finish the regular season, whether they are going to be extra teams (in the playoffs).
“And if it’s going to be a finishing of the regular season, it’s going to be a mad sprint, those are going to be like playoff games as well. From where we are at, I think we would really be in a good spot if we did get the chance to play playoff hockey, whether we have to play ourselves in, or we start where we are with a different format.”
Yet Quenneville — who took time to commend front-line workers in the fight against the coronavirus — isn’t under any illusions. He knows that an end to the 2019-20 season, if it happens on the ice, is not exactly around the corner.
“We’re in a holding pattern, we are all anxious to find out if we’re going to play or not,” Quenneville said. “It’s still a long way away and we’re still waiting on a lot of questions to be answered and doing whatever we can to be keeping ourselves in the right frame of mind.”