TORONTO -- The World Cup of Hockey is here to stay, that much the NHL and NHL Players' Association have made fairly clear.
Just what form it will have moving forward, however, remains very much up in the air.
Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock didn't hold back when I asked him Tuesday morning what his feedback would be about the World Cup if the NHL and NHLPA asked him for it.
"Two cities, only night games, bring the pools together -- close, close together -- so you have crowds every night, not moving players around," began Babcock, and it was obvious he had been waiting for a while for someone to ask. "Based on where you finish, what your world standing is that's how you're ranked in the tournament, that's how you pick dressing rooms, that's how you pick everything.
"That's fair, actually. When you go to the Olympic Games, the swimmer in the heats who swims the fastest gets the best lane; that's how it should be. But this young guns [North America] team, or whatever it was [called], was spectacular. Next time is there going to be a [Connor] McDavid and an [Auston] Matthews and those guys there? So you better be careful what you do with that.
"Team Europe's done a great job," Babcock continued. "They're right here in the final, [so it's] pretty hard to knock it and yet I like country on country. I like the opportunity to represent your country where the heat's on you and you've got to deliver. I think that's a huge part of the Olympic Games. The other thing is, the World Cup's great. It's not the Olympics. Let's not get confused."
OK, everyone got all that?
First and foremost, if Babcock had his way there's no way the NHL and NHLPA would pull out of sending players to the 2018 South Korea Games. That decision needs to be made by the end of the year, and unless the IOC changes its tune on not wanting to pay for player contract insurance and travel costs -- as it has in the past -- NHL participation is definitely in peril.
Also notable is that Babcock clearly feels that the next World Cup should be made up of teams representing their countries and not include the 23-and-under North American team or the team he's facing in the finals, Team Europe. I happen to agree with him. I think a traditional field is the way to go, with a European qualifying event the year before the next World Cup to determine the final few teams in the field. If the NHL doesn't go to South Korea, I think there will be even more onus on having an Olympic-like, traditional field for the next World Cup.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Tuesday that no decisions had been made, either way, yet in terms of which teams would take part in the next World Cup.
"We haven't evaluated [that] yet. When we debrief with the Players' Association we'll focus on the format of future World Cups,'' Bettman told ESPN.com. "(But) I don't think anybody can suggest that this tournament wasn't more exciting because of the Team Europe and Team North America concepts. There's no doubt that those two teams were more competitive than the seventh and eighth countries would have been.''
Team Europe winger Nino Niederreiter, who is from Switzerland, was asked Tuesday morning about whether he'd want to play for the Swiss in the next World Cup or come back as part of Team Europe.
"At the end of the day it's a lot more emotional when you play for your own country," said Niederreiter. "Here, you got put together a couple of weeks ago and you're eight nations in one place and for one team. At this point you don't really play for your country, you play for the teammates you have. So it's a mixed feeling. Even being in the finals, it's a different feeling than when you play for Switzerland in the final. There's literally no pressure on us (Team Europe). All the pressure is on Canada.''
Don't get him wrong, Niederreiter says the whole Team Europe experience has been amazing. But when push comes to shove, playing for a solid hockey country like Switzerland and having that emotional attachment is preferable. After all, Switzerland did beat Canada at the Torino Olympics in 2006 and lost in a shootout to the Canadians at Vancouver 2010. So it's reasonable for Switzerland to want to have its own entry in the World Cup. On the flip side, look at it from Anze Kopitar's perspective.
Slovenia, Kopitar's home country, will never have a chance to make a World Cup field. So for him, this is a unique opportunity with Team Europe and he's really enjoying the ride.
"I think everybody bought in really quick. I mean, I've said it many times, everybody's really excited to be here and I'd be lying if I said I was completely sold on this concept for sure. You don't know what you're getting into," said the Los Angeles Kings captain. "It makes it so much easier if the guys buy in right away. We have a really good group of guys. It was a lot easier than I expected for everybody to kind of match up and create the chemistry that's brought us to this point."