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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Musings: NHLPA Misses the Mark

Connor McDavid’s game tying goal had hockey fans and media outlets buzzing Friday night and over the weekend. You don’t see goals like that very often, yet the NHL Player’s Association barely mentioned it. A quick scan of social media on Twitter and Instagram and you saw virtually no mention of McDavid’s magic from NHL players. If NHL players want salaries to increase, then the NHLPA needs a beginner course in marketing, because right now they are failing miserably.

Young hockey fans live on social media. It is a massive way to connect to them on a personal scale, and when the NHL’s best player scores one of the greatest regular season goals in NHL history, NHL players and the PA need to mention it.

Do a quick scan of NBA superstars. They are regularly tweeting comments about other games and players. When a player is having a productive game, drains an important shot, or makes a highlight reel dunk, other star players are making posts on their socials about it. They show fans that the players are just as passionate and excited as fans. That matters, but in the ultra-conservative NHL, there was barely a ripple.

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The @NHLPA twitter account had four posts on Friday. One was a good story on Anders Lee, another on the NHLPA Goals and Dreams program, Marion Gaborik’s retirement, and Brady Tkachuk being named captain. All worthwhile posts, but no post about McDavid’s goal. Nothing on the weekend either, other than congratulating Patrick Kane on his 1,100th point, which is a great accomplishment.

How is it possible in 2021 that the NHLPA and its players lack the basics on how to connect with fans? The Oilers players spoke about the goal when asked by the media in their post-game scrums, but that was it. It is the best NHL regular season goal any of them have seen, by their own teammate, but very little on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok? Leon Draisaitl shared the Oilers IG story on his own story, but that was about it.

But it shouldn’t be on Oilers players. It should be stars around the NHL, and the NHLPA needs to help them.

Alex Ovechkin could have posted: “Reason #97 why I’m not a defencemen.”

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Or Morgan Reilly: “I know how this feels.”

And others could have posted that the goal was exciting to watch. Simple marketing. Players are fans of the game, so show fans you feel the same way. Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies tweeted about the goal, which is great, but I didn’t notice any NHL stars doing it. If I’m in charge of the NHLPA, that can’t happen again.

This doesn’t need to be every day or even every week, but the NHLPA needs a better online presence by its players. When highlight moments happen the players should be talking about it. The NHLPA could work with four or five players each week.

 

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I have nothing to do with it, but Oilersnation Instagram and Twitter was all over the goal, and the reaction from fans. They did an amazing job posting videos and memes, allowing fans to re-live the moment again and again. Imagine how excited fans would have been if an Oilers player posted a comment with the goal. I’m guessing they’d have loved it even more.

Friday’s night atmosphere was the loudest and most intense regular season game I’ve experienced at Roger’s Place since it opened. The last game I remember being that loud and boisterous was Sam Gagner’s eight-point game in 2012. Those are rare and special moments and people want to re-live that enjoyment and excitement for days.

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To me, this should be an eye-opener for the NHLPA. It needs to recognize the importance of connecting with the fans on a more personal level, and in doing so they will love players and teams even more.

QUICK NOTES…

Apr 5, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Devin Shore (14) reacts with teammates after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Shore will be out of the lineup for four to six weeks with a lower body injury and was placed on IR today. Shore had been playing much better in the last few games prior to getting hurt. Ryan McLeod has been recalled and will meet the team in Detroit. McLeod needs to be more assertive when he gets in the lineup. Use his speed and be more tenacious on the puck.

— Expect Stuart Skinner to get a start on the road trip. Mike Smith skated with goalie coach Dustin Schwartz for an hour Sunday morning, but he wasn’t on the ice with the main group. I’m told there was a minor setback in practice last week. Nothing serious, but they are being cautious and the way Mikko Koskinen is playing there is zero need to rush Smith back.

— I’d start Skinner Friday in Buffalo. Koskinen had three days off after Friday’s win, then he can play tomorrow in Detroit and Thursday in Boston. If you play Skinner tomorrow, then he will play two of three, or it means Mike Smith will be ready for Friday. I doubt they know for certain if Smith will be ready Friday, so I’d play Koskinen tomorrow. The team is rolling, Koskinen has started seven games in 20 days. Starting tomorrow would make it eight starts in 21 days. That isn’t a heavy workload.

— Jesse Puljujarvi’s response to what he saw while on the ice during the McDavid goal was the best. “I saw him with speed, and I was thinking what is he going to do, and then he makes a few good moves and then I was laughing (smiling). It was funny,” grinned the personable Puljujarvi. He wasn’t being malicious in saying he was laughing, it was more he was laughing at the absurdity of how great of a goal it was. To do that in the NHL, against the best players in the world, is incredible.

— Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard switching from the first pair to the third pair this season, is often due to good play. Barrie was playing very well early on Friday, so he got bumped up. Bouchard hasn’t been as assertive the past few games, so Jim Playfair made the switch. He runs the blue line and the changes are often his choice. He walked over to Dave Tippett on the bench on Friday and said he wanted to make the change. Tippett had no issue with it. But, if you noticed he did play Bouchard with Keith for a few shifts late in the third. Keep the young player’s confidence up. Playfair told Bouchard to stay aggressive and move his feet. He won’t have success just trying to skill his way through plays.

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And then Playfair had Ceci on the ice in the final minute of a tie game. Make players feel confident in their roles. Ceci’s role will be to be on the ice in key defensive situations. Players thrive when you give them a role, and trust them to play that role. Even though Ceci missed some shifts when Edmonton was pushing for the tying goal, Playfair still put him out in a key defensive zone situation.

Bouchard is still learning. If he moves up and down with Barrie all season, often due to the good play of one of them, that is a great situation to be in. Competition is great, and Playfair is rewarding those who play well, without neutering those who might not be playing their best. Bouchard was taken off the top pair on Friday more due to how well Barrie was playing.

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