By this time next week we’ll be talking about actual competitive hockey games. The play-in rounds will have begun and half of the hockey world will have enjoyed the hockey while the other half will refer to it as the worst thing they’ve ever seen in their life. It’s just the way the world turns these days.
Over the past week teams wrapped up their training camps and Phase III drew to a close. As you sip this over your cup of coffee, cup of tea, or Bloody Mary, teams are flying into their hub cities and checking into the rooms that they hope to occupy for the next two months. Expect to start seeing photos of packaged foods and small rooms to leak out onto social media over the next couple of days.
Until then, let’s look back at some of the stories from the past week.
What’s Going on in Arizona
The Coyotes are heading to Edmonton with a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. It’s not a great shot, but it’s still a shot. According to reports the architect that put the team together might not join them. His office might also be empty whenever they return.
John Chayka, hired as GM back in 2016 at the tender age of 2016, seems to be on his way out of the organization despite reportedly having three years left on his current contract. The reasons are cloudy as to why the relationship has deteriorated to the point where a team spokesperson’s response to a simple question about Chayka’s status with the organization was met with a “No comment.”
There is a report that Chayka wanted to pursue an opportunity with a “third party” that new owner Alex Meruelo originally ok’d, but then later backtracked. Chayka wasn’t at a recent dinner where Meruelo, his son Alex, Jr., and new president Xavier Gutierrez had with pending free agent Taylor Hall. There is also the possibility that there is the age old clash between analytics (Chayka’s world) and “old school hockey” (head coach Rick Tocchet’s world).
While there may be some truth to both of those possibilities, it could also be that Meruelo and Gutierrez want to hire their own guy to be GM. While Meruelo did approve the GM’s extension in 2019, he wasn’t the one who originally hired Chayka. With Gutierrez entering the picture this season it could be that they’re looking to take the team in a different direction.
Chayka has improved the team during his tenure with a mixture of solid draft picks and key trades. Bringing in Hall and Phil Kessel were supposed to take the Coyotes to the next level, but both veterans have been less than impressive during their time in the desert. He’s also maxed out Arizona’s cap situation, limiting their flexibility in the near future.
The timing of the situation isn’t great, and the fact that both sides are clamming up indicates that there is a lot more under the surface than what has been dug up already. It’ll be an interesting next few months out there and that doesn’t include the fact that a loss to Nashville would throw Arizona into the running for the top pick in the draft.
Brayden Point’s Exceptional Training Camp
The Lightning’s number one center capped off the summer restart with two goals in the Blue/White scrimmage. For the last two weeks it’s been pointed out several times about how much faster he’s looked, which is something considering he has been one of the fastest players on the team since he joined them. When asked about it following the scrimmage, Coach Cooper responded with, “I would say he got healthy during the pause”.
Last offseason Point had hip surgery. Something that sounds like it would be more appropriate for your 85-year-old grandfather instead of 24-year-old professional athlete, the procedure cleaned up some issues that had plagued him most of his career.
While it delayed the start of his season, it didn’t seem to affect his play once he got going. Still, the break probably came at a good time for him. The surgery most likely affected his normal off-season workout and then the normal wear and tear of the season took its toll on him. With four months off the ice and a chance to work on strengthening his legs, it appears he’s added another gear to his game. Opponents can’t be happy to hear that.
Corey Crawford is back on the ice
This weekend marked the return of Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltender Corey Crawford to the team. The reason for his absence from training camp was finally revealed on Saturday when he confirmed that he had been in quarantine following a positive COVID-19 test. He’ll be joining the team on their way up to Edmonton and helps give them a puncher’s chance against the Oilers in the play-in round.
The league’s protocols for Phase III kept him away from his teammates for the majority of the training camp so he’ll need to ramp up quickly as their first game is just over a week away. In a seven-game series, Chicago may be tempted to start Malcolm Subban in the first game to give Crawford just a bit more time to reacclimate to the NHL. Since it’s a five-game sprint, they don’t have that luxury.
The NHL releases details about game presentation
Michael Buble, a five-second delay on TV, piped in crowd noise, and more cameras than a reality show house. The NHL has been working on how to present hockey from an empty arena since they’ve announced their return. If you’ve watched any MLB this weekend you know it’s going to take some time to get used to seeing empty stadiums.
The NHL’s approach to dealing with the new reality is to focus on entertaining the fans at home. They want every game to have an unique presentation to it through the use of video, sound, and lightning. They’ve reached out to the teams to provide game day experiences like goal songs (expect to hear Johnny B. Goode when Tyler Johnson bangs home an overtime winner), hype videos, and other presentations unique to each club. Sonya Bryson-Kirksey has been recording the National Anthem and her version will be played before Lightning home games.
With no fans in the stands the production crew is able to add more camera angles than we are used to seeing during a normal broadcast. It sounds like there will be a camera that is able to track along up close with the play, which should better showcase the speed the game is played at than some of the camera shots have from the past.
There are going to be extra video screens and LED panels to enhance the presentation as well. No word on if they’re importing the Tesla coils, but it sounds like the Columbus cannon won’t make it through customs.
There are going to be some cheesy aspects to the presentation, after all it’s the NHL and they can’t help but go overboard in the schlock factor from time to time. One thing they stressed is that they will be adapting their broadcasts as the playoffs go on. If something isn’t working out they are able to alter it.
Fans should have an open mind and not immediately assume the NHL is going to screw this up. They should also realize there may be a glitch or two since they are trying to put on a production in an environment that is unprecedented. They may even discover some elements that they can transfer back to broadcasts when fans return to arenas.
All of the elements that they are adding are for the fans enjoyment of the game. It sounds like the piped in crowd noise may just be for the broadcast meaning that, unlike in baseball, the players won’t hear the background noise.
We’re a week away from hockey, folks. Hopefully, there are no bumps along the road and the playoffs will get under way smoothly. Keep washing your hands and wearing your mass!