Photo Credit: NHL.com

Monday Musings: Playoff Week

Here come the playoffs. A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

All 24 teams arrived in their respective hub cities last night. They checked in, found pictures of loved ones in their hotel rooms and, if you are a coffee drinker, were excited to learn they have free Tims in the bubble.

I feel like a young child on the 22nd of December…the anticipation is intense.

1. The exhibition games begin tomorrow with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at 2 p.m. MDT, followed by Toronto/Montreal at 6 p.m. and Edmonton/Calgary at 8:30 p.m. Then six games on Wednesday followed by three on Thursday with Nashville/Dallas at 2 p.m., Boston/Columbus at 5 p.m. and Vegas/Arizona at 8 p.m.

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2. The John Chayka saga in Arizona is unlike any I’ve seen. The Coyotes press release stating “he quit” wasn’t a good look. I never liked the hiring to begin with. Not because of Chayka’s loose connection to analytics, but because he had zero management experience. Being an NHL GM is extremely difficult. And there is much more to the job than the eye test or analytics. People with a background in either can fail. We have seen it time and time again. Chayka had zero hockey experience. That is why it was a bad hire.

3. The organization failed when they hired him. It is interesting to note in Elliott Friedman’s 31 Thoughts that Chayka was a driver in convincing new owner, Alex Meruelo, to purchase the team. Until we hear from Chayka as to why he left, I won’t judge his reason for leaving, but the timing is awful. If the reports of him being offered another job are true, that’s fine. I get why some people want to make a change, but he should have left in a more professional matter. You don’t leave a team before the season ends. Unless he has a major health issue, I see no reason to do it. Ever. He could have left and taken this “new opportunity” after the season was complete. Even if Meruelo was furious with him for wanting out, Chayka owed it to his staff and players to remain with the team until their season was officially over.

4. I like the idea that teams can dress 13 forwards and seven D-men for the exhibition games. It allows more players a chance to feel game speed. It is rare a team only uses the same 18 skaters during a playoff run, and you don’t want to insert a player into the lineup who hasn’t played a game in four months. Some players will be in that position at some point this playoffs, but at least this gives a few more players a chance to play a game. I see Caleb Jones and Gaetan Haas being added to the lineup tomorrow. Jones is the clear #7 D-man on the team, while Haas and Joakim Nygard are the 13th and 14th forwards. Riley Sheahan left the Colby Cave Memorial Scrimmage and didn’t skate today so he is unlikely to play tomorrow, and Gaetan Haas will take his spot between Josh Archibald and Andreas Athanasiou. Dave Tippett didn’t elaborate on how serious Sheahan’s injury was, but he is one of their top penalty killers so even if he misses one game it is a concern.

5. This is great news for the NHL and their players.

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No new positive tests for NHL players from last week. I applaud the players for being diligent and sticking close to home and to the NHL for their strict testing. So far it has worked as well as you’d expect.

6. We should point out medical experts say it takes three to five days from exposure to test positive, so, theoretically, if a player has been exposed to the virus in the previous five days, he could unknowingly pass the virus in the bubble. And that is why for now teams, and their entire travelling entourage, can only interact with their group. Teams were even given their one restaurant to use for this week. Once the playoffs begin teams will be able to use different restaurants within the bubble.

7. It is important to remember the NHL, and NBA, bubbles are much different than MLB and the current NFL proposed return to play format. MLB is travelling from city to city and the Miami Marlins’ COVID outbreak is not good for MLB, but I don’t see a connection to the NHL. The NHL has much lower risk of infection due to much less interaction in public.

8. Philip Broberg had a very strong camp, but I don’t expect him to be on the Oilers roster to start next season. He is only 19 years young. Ken Holland does not believe in rushing players, and looking good in camp is a far cry from playing well in the NHL. Broberg will play in Sweden next season, but with the NHL poised to start next season late we could see Broberg come over after his season is finished in Sweden and still have three months left in the NHL season. Anyone suggesting Broberg is NHL-ready now hasn’t paid attention to Holland’s track record with young players. He does not rush them. He won’t with Broberg.

9. Other NHL notes: The Carolina Hurricanes won’t have Brett Pesce in their lineup for the first round, and likely not the second, and Dougie Hamilton is still “unfit to play” according to his head coach Rod Brind’Amour. They averaged the second and third most TOI/game on the Hurricanes blueline in the regular season, but they also missed seven and 21 games respectively. The Hurricanes acquisition of Brady Skjei still have a pretty deep defence, but they are much more vulnerable without Hamilton and Pesce against the Rangers. That series is much more interesting now.

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10. I don’t have much sense of who to pick in either seeding tournament. Who do you like to finish #1 though #4 in the east and west conferences? Assuming the Oilers win, they will play the #4 seed and that’s why the seeding round is important. I think the Blues would be the toughest matchup for the Oilers, while the Avalanche would be the most exciting.