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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Random Thoughts: Hybrid Bubbles, Goaltending Splits, Series Play, and more…

It’s a brisk November morning here in the capital city and we still have a month or more left to wait until the next NHL season rolls around, and that’s giving me plenty of time to think about what’s to come for the franchise and the league in general.

Back in the Bubble?

Earlier in the month, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, spoke to the press and offered up some of the first details about what the next season might look like, including the potential for re-alignment and an all-Canadian division. There was a lot of stuff in that short presser that gave me hope that we’ll get an NHL season, and it’s been nice to finally get some NHL news about what the plan is going to be after a couple of months with nothing more than rumours and rumblings. While I already recapped the presser a while ago, I did want to talk about the idea of the hybrid bubble system that Bettman spoke about as a potential option for the start of the season.

“You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without travelling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need. It’s not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent practical and sensible.”

In this interview, Bettman admits that he would never ask players to head back into a bubble situation as a long-term fix because it was a difficult circumstance for them to be trapped in, an understandable thought as some of those guys went months without seeing their friends or families, but this hybrid system would put a major onus on the players to behave responsibly, which can be easier said than done if you can remember being in your early to mid-20s. This plan of flying in-and-out a few weeks at a time will require the players to take a much more active effort to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 — assuming the varying provinces, states, and cities allow this to happen — and that’s going to be an interesting challenge for the league to get through, especially when you consider that the days are ticking by while COVID numbers are rising. Not to mention, the players and lead still need to agree that they’re going to play first.

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Give Me That Series Play

With ‘Rona ruining basically everything when it comes to having a normal NHL season, my favourite idea to come out so far has been to have teams play each other two-or-three games in a row just like they do in baseball. Personally, I think it would be great. Not only would mini-series like this crank up the animosity between both clubs, but it would also allow for some wild swings in the standings depending on the outcome of these divisional series. Imagine what it would be like to be out of first place in the division by four points near the end of the season, and then you’ve got a three-game set against the Flames to close out the year. If we get fired up for four-point games against divisional opponents, imagine how huge those nights would be if they were coming three at a time? *whistles* That’s good rivalry fuel right there, my friends.

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The Goaltending Split

Now that we know the Oilers are rolling into 2021 with Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith as their goaltending duo, one of the biggest questions that a lot of us have is in regards to how much each of guy will spend between the pipes. We know that both guys are going to play, but what I’m thinking about is whether or not we’ll see as even of a split as we did last season. To me, Mikko Koskinen seems like the obvious choice to be the starter for 2021 as he was better by nearly every statistical measure in 2019-20, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything either. Koskinen started only 34 of 71 games (48%) last season, and even though many of us think he should be the go-to guy, I bet the reality is that we’ll be much closer to a 50/50 split than we maybe might expect. Coach Tippett clearly values what Mike Smith brings to the crease and that’s going to make for an interesting storyline to follow in a shortened season where every game matters a little bit more than normal. Frankly, neither goalie will have much room for a run of poor play, so the pressure will be on for both of them to provide consistently strong goaltending. If they can’t, then we could be in line for another short year and that’ll be on my mind every day until Clinchmas.

MIKKO KOSKINEN’S CAREER STATS

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Season GP GS W L T OT SA GA GAA SV% SO MIN
2019-2020 Playoffs 4 3 1 2 99 11 3.16 .889 209
Career Playoffs 4 3 1 2 99 11 3.16 .889 209
2019-2020 38 34 18 13 3 1,175 97 2.75 .917 1 2,117
NHL Career 97 89 45 35 9 2,844 258 2.91 .909 5 5,317
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MIKE SMITH’S CAREER STATS

Season GP GS W L T OT SA GA GAA SV% SO MIN
2019-2020 Playoffs 1 1 1 23 5 11.31 .783 27
Career Playoffs 25 23 11 13 878 58 2.33 .934 4 1,493
2019-2020 39 37 19 12 6 1,087 106 2.95 .902 1 2,157
NHL Career 610 588 262 248 74 17,794 1,575 2.71 .911 39 34,834

Kool-Aid Season

I know there’s a lot of things that are weird about this year, but one underreported aspect has been the absence of a true Kool-Aid drinking season that we’re used to having every summer. With the NHL Draft and free agency about six weeks behind us, the normal yearly cycle would have us somewhere around mid-August by now when the promise of a new season would be enough to fill our hearts with hope and joy. Here in 2020, we’re already kissing the end of November and we don’t even know when or if the new season is going to start, completely eliminating the beauty and wonder of the mid-summer Kool-Aid festival. At this point in the offseason, we should be telling ourselves stories that get us pumped up and filled with belief that the upcoming campaign will be different and that the past was over and done with. Over. Finished. But not this year. This year, we’re having to wait to fill our Kool-Aid cups, and your ol’ friend Baggedmilk is feeling mighty thirsty.

Reddit gives us a historical hockey fix

I love Reddit. Outside of YouTube and TikTok, I can’t think of another platform that does a better a job of providing me with rabbit holes to fall into where I inadvertently lose hours or days of my life — it’s the best. I know some of you may prefer other platforms, but for me, these three are king wasters of my time. My point here is that the Hockey sub-Reddit has been looking back on some of the best goals, assists, and hits from throughout NHL history and it’s been a lot of fun to sit and watch highlights that I had long forgotten about. From McDavid magic to crushing hits by Byfuglien at his best and everything in between, this sub-Reddit is full of amazing clips that you folks will love provided that you don’t have anything overly pressing on your to-do list this morning.