Yesterday afternoon, Edmonton Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, jumped on a Zoom call to speak to reporters about the 24-team playoff tournament, what to expect from his team that hasn’t played in months, facing the Chicago Blackhawks in a play-in series, and a whole lot more.
Ready to get back on the bench but unsure of when that will happen, Dave Tippett has been preparing for his Oilers to square off against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It almost feels like the year there was a lockout. You feel like you’re a doctor on call. You’re just waiting for that call to come.”
When the league rightfully pressed pause on March 12th, the Oilers were sporting a 37-25-9 record which means that the team will be facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the expanded 24-team playoff format. However, at this stage, we still don’t know when or if that will actually happen, which makes preparing for these games more difficult than normal.
“Preparation is going to be key, because you’re going to go from a pause to 100/mph in a hurry. There are going to be guys who have an extra jump in their step, and there might be some guys where the pause has taken a toll on their bodies, we’ll monitor that.”
It goes without saying that this tournament will be unlike anything the NHL has ever had to do before, and it will be up to all of the players to be prepared to play and find a way to contribute immediately.
“We have some veteran players who understand what it takes when you get in the playoffs and how hard it’s going to be. We also have some young legs coming out of a break who should be ready to go.”
With a short training camp in the cards, the veteran coach admitted that this won’t be anywhere close to a normal training camp since he won’t be evaluating dozens of players to see who will play and who won’t.
“It’s not like a training camp in the sense that you have 60 players and you’re looking at a lot of people. You know who you have, and you know where most of the parts fit. Training camp will be seeing if there is a player or two who jump up, and maybe somebody falls behind, hasn’t come in as good of shape as they should be after the pause.”
When asked what he expects from his players that have been off the ice for months, Tippett explained that he’s expecting a mixed bag in terms of overall conditioning.
“The pause has been a while, so you’re going to have to see how players react coming back. You’re probably going to get some players who are maybe not as good as they were and you’ll probably get some players who are more motivated, especially ones who had injuries, to jump back in and get going.”
Even without having to evaluate players in terms of who makes the team, Tippett will still have plenty of work to do to make sure everyone is prepared to play from the moment the puck drops.
“You know players, but you have to evaluate what they’re doing, what their conditioning level is and where they’re at right now to make sure they’re ready to go on day one because it’s a different day one.”
Seeing as the games against Chicago mean something from the opening faceoff and that there’s no time to waste, Tippett will be focused on making sure his team is as prepared as possible despite the time off.
“You’re hoping that training camp is hard enough where it takes all of the slow starting out of it. You’re not going to be able to tiptoe in. You’ll have to be ready from the first drop of the puck, and we hope we’ll be ready to do that.”
As for the team’s opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks may not be the same team they were when they won Stanley Cups a few years back, but Tippett knows that their experience is something that needs to be respected in a short series.
“We’ve talked to our players and our coaches a lot about us preparing our team and making sure we’re ready before we look at anybody else. You look at Chicago, the thing that jumps out at you is the championship pedigree that they have.”
One of the strangest parts of the NHL’s plan to return to play will be the obvious fact that teams will be playing in front of empty arenas. When asked about the oddness of not having fans in the arena, Tippett admitted that it’s hard to articulate since he’s never dealt with a scenario like this before.
“I don’t know if you really know how it’s going to be until you get in the situation.”
Will it change his approach on the bench?
“There will be probably less screaming on the bench.”
When asked about when he will be coming back to Edmonton, Tippett stated that he won’t be allowed on the ice with the players in Phase 2 of the plan but that he does want to return to Edmonton to be there for the players.
“I want to get in. If I have to quarantine for 14 days, I’ll do that, and make sure I’m ready to go when the players start showing up.”
THE FULL INTERVIEW
If you’re interested in watching the entire discussion, Coach Tippett spoke for just under 18 minutes so there was plenty that I didn’t transcribe for this recap, but the whole call still worth the time if you’re looking for something Oilers-related to watch.