While the rest of us wait to see what’s happening with the 2020-21 NHL regular season, Calgary Flames’ head coach says he’s getting his team ready for the season. Because that’s what the NHL league office told him.
In a post today, TSN’s Salim Valji wrote about his interview with Ward and, during that interview, that’s the news that Ward shared. In fact, Ward was quite clear that January 1 remains the target for the start of the 2020-21 NHL regular season.
As the Calgary coach reported, “We’re moving ahead like there’s going to be [a season]. The league is definitely saying that there will be a season. So as a coach and as coaches of our team, our staff is doing an awful lot of work to make sure we’re prepared. Right now, we’re preparing as though it’s going to be January 1 until we hear otherwise.”
Will There Be a Canadian Division?
However, Ward seemed to be a bit of a step behind other people’s thinking. In the interview, although it seems to me that almost everyone has accepted the reality that – given the impossibility of USA/Canada border crossings for non-essential travel – there “has to be” a Canadian division and some split up of US teams into other divisions.
However, he said, “I think that with the way the quarantine is looking right now, a Canadian division seems like it’s becoming more and more of a reality and that’s going to be awesome.” OK – but I thought it was a done deal.
But he admitted that such a prospect (an all-Canadian division) excites him as a coach – which he’s looking forward to doing. He likes it behind the bench you can tell from the interview.
Ward Names the Strengths of the Flames as a Team
One reason he’s looking forward to his second season with the team is because he believes he has a contending team. In fact, Ward outlined some of the strengths he believed the Flames had.
First, he believed the team had great chemistry.
Specifically, he noted: “We’ve got excellent team chemistry. That was one of the things I thought was a strength of our team last year.”
Second, he believes that the Flames play a style of play they are now comfortable with and it won’t take the team long to gear up when training camp starts.
On that topic, Ward noted: “The fact that we were able to establish a style of play and have some confidence in it and the guys know what to expect in terms of what we’re doing on the ice, that lends to having a little less communication because we know exactly where our takeoff point is going to be when we all get back together here in Calgary.”
Markstrom Gives the Team Great Goalie Play
Third, he believes the team has good goaltending. Ward believes that his team got one of the NHL’s best goalies when general manager Brad Treliving signed Jacob Markstrom, who’d played several seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. That must make the entire organization relax a bit.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the Flames’ goalie play has been up and down since Miikka Kiprusoff played his last game with the team in 2013. In fact, it seems the team’s had a bit of a jumble in goal – players like Joey MacDonald, Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, Joni Ortio, Jonas Hiller, Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, Jon Gillies, Mike Smith, Cam Talbot, and David Rittich have been the starters. Some were good goalies, but none of them are Markstrom.
Ward agrees, and believes that Markstrom addresses the team’s needs in goal.
“You can’t have a lot of success in this league without having good goaltending. We feel like we have acquired a real, real good goaltender in the league…it allows us to play with confidence.”
If indeed Markstrom provides that boost, he’ll be worth the six-year, $36 million contract he signed during the offseason. The fact that Marksgtrom finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting last season only solidifies Ward’s thinking.
Hockey Is Just Around the Corner, So Repeats Ward
Ward believes the new season will begin soon. As he notes, “We’re acting as if training camp is going to be December 15 and that the season is going to start January 1.”
He added that the team is “getting everything in place … for those dates. And if it happens to be a bit of a longer wait, then we know that we’ve got all the work done and we can adjust easier that way.”
He’s ready to go – fans of all NHL teams hope he’s got it right.
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