The NHL paused its season on March 12th due to the coronavirus. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no news to report to fans – even during the suspension of play.
Sometimes, even though I write about hockey every day, something happens that makes me realize that I don’t know everything that’s going on in the NHL hockey world. That happened this morning as I was doing my daily research ritual of trying to suss out any hockey news that’s emerging from each of the Canadian-based hockey teams.
Today, I read a great article by the Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson who did an interview with new Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward about what he was doing during the NHL’s suspended season. His team, the Flames – and everyone else for that matter, await a final word about whether the NHL’s regular-season will continue or not. (from “Q&A: Flames interim coach Geoff Ward on priorities during pause, his future and saluting COVID-19 front-liners,” Wes Gilbertson, Calgary Sun, 09/04/20)
What Are NHL Players Doing?
I had already read and reported news about a number of the Flames players and what they were doing during the suspension. For players, there’s not much to do except to stay in as good of shape as they can and self-isolating to protect themselves from illness.
For example, in a previous post, I had reported that Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau had returned to his parents’ home in New Jersey where he and his brother had been working with their dad to chop trees on their rural property and store firewood. To Gaudreau’s best guess, they had done four winter’s worth.
I had also reported that Flames’ goalie David Rittich had returned home to the Czech Republic where he had healed from an elbow injury and was finally able to begin doing workouts earlier this past week. Basically, what I had learned was the – for players – they basically had two jobs while they were on their own (a) to stay in shape and (b) to stay healthy.
The Different Life of a Coach and a Player
Gilbertson’s article reminded me that the job of a coach was vastly different. There’s a great lot of planning to do; and, in fact, Ward was engaged fully in that planning. In other words, Ward has lots to do in preparation for all the possibilities that the Flames might soon face when end the NHL’s paused season resumes if it does. We are now getting close to a second month without hockey.
For a head coach like Ward, there’s lots of that work can be done while self-isolating at home. And, he’s doing it.
Specifically, as Ward told Gilbertson during their interview, “We have an awful lot going on right now as a coaching staff. We’ve had time to prepare for our last 12 opponents, moving down the stretch towards the playoffs. We’ve taken a look at the scenario where there may not be any more regular season and now there is just playoffs and what that may look like. So we’ve been able to focus on potentially what the first-round opponent could look like for us and done some work there. We’ve looked at potentially what a training camp would look like when we do start up again.”
Spelling Out Possible Scenarios
Interestingly, Ward and his staff are playing out the number of different scenarios that “might” occur; and, because they might occur, that makes lots of different things one must prepare for as a coach.
A number of different “what if” questions emerge. For example,
“What if there are no playoffs at all?”
“What if there’s no regular season, but the team goes into the playoffs? Who might the Flames play?”
“What if there’s no offseason because the self-isolation must continue to October?”
“What if the 2020 playoffs do happen, but there’s no break between these playoffs and the 2020-21 regular season?”
“What if the 2020 season continues after July when player’s contracts have ended?”
In other words, a lot of questions emerge if one thinks of it like an NHL coach (for general manager).
Where this NHL Suspension Leaves Ward and Other NHL coaches?
This break in NHL regular-season play opens each team’s door to engage in a thorough team-evaluation. In the case of the Flames, how has the 2019-20 season showed the team’s strengths and weaknesses? And, where does the team go now?
Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward, and all other NHL coaches by the way, is a very busy man.
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