A day after the National Hockey League announced their plans for Return to Play – as long as things in the real world keep progressing positively – Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, interim head coach Geoff Ward and general manager Brad Treliving held court with local media in a virtual setting to give updates on where everything goes from here.
The match-up with the Jets
Presuming that everything progresses in the public health realm to allow for hockey to resume, the Flames will face the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifying round. All three speakers were resolute in their respect for the Jets, but also noting that they didn’t want to get to a point where they focused so much on the Jets that they ignored their own game.
“We’ve got a match-up against a really, really good team that we have a lot of respect for,” said Treliving.
“I don’t think we want to focus on Winnipeg so, so much that we’re frozen by it,” said Ward. “We’ll do our due diligence on Winnipeg. We know who the opponent is now, but the most important thing we’re thinking about is how we’re going to prepare to play Winnipeg…. The most important thing is from the information we get from watching Winnipeg, and knowing our own team, what is the best plan for moving forward in order to make sure that we’re effective in the way we play against them.”
As Ward has repeatedly stated since he took over as interim coach, the Flames need to be focused on themselves and playing the best version of their own game.
“The most important thing is us,” said Ward. “As much we respect our opponent, we know what their strengths are, we know what they’re going to offer us, we know how they’re going to play in all situations and what they’re going to bring to the table, the most important thing for us is what are we going to do. Let’s get to our game.”
The format and the restart
Nobody’s really skated since the pause on March 12. By the time Phase 2 begins (potentially in early June), players will have been off ice for three months. While Giordano conceded that it’s a big layoff, he added that combined with the Phase 2 ramp-up, two weeks of a formal camp would be enough to get players ready for the post-season.
In terms of preparing for a camp and a ramp-up, Ward noted he’s talked to coaches from other sports about how to deal with lay-offs and done a lot of prep and discussion among the staff. It’s worth noting that Ward was an assistant coach with Boston during the 2012-13 lockout season, while current Flames players Giordano, Milan Lucic, Mikael Backlund, TJ Brodie, Zac Rinaldo and Michael Stone all played that season and would have some experience with a unique camp after a lay-off.
In terms of talk about the format of this year’s playoffs being too damn quirky, Treliving praised the NHL’s brass for coming up with the format.
Head coach Geoff Ward: “In order for us to win the Stanley Cup, we’d have to win five rounds.”
Says he doesn’t see anything that will take away from the integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As such, doesn’t really buy the asterisks argument. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) May 27, 2020
It’ll be odd, sure, what with empty arenas in a unique situation. But Treliving thinks it’ll still be meaningful hockey.
“It’ll be new,” said Treliving. “It’ll be uncharted territory. But I think once the puck’s dropped, and you’ve got somebody in a red jersey and somebody in not a red jersey, there’s gonna be competition. It’s going to be exciting.”
Roster and procedural fun
While Gary Bettman has declared the regular season over, there’s been no direction from the NHL to the Flames and Oilers formally about the status of the conditional third round pick from the Milan Lucic/James Neal swap. (NHLPA head Donald Fehr noted on a recent conference call that nothing’s been formally agreed upon in regards to how the stats from the qualifying round will be handled, for example.)
The Flames are waiting on some clarity regarding roster limits for the qualifying round and post-season. Teams will be restricted to 50 personnel in the hub cities, which includes players – Treliving’s operating under the idea that the roster limit will be around 30. They have a few options they’re looking at in terms of which players they’ll be bringing, but they’re also looking for clarity on if they’ll be allowed to have a taxi squad of players that remain in Calgary.
Here’s the gist of the draft lottery:
- If they win the play-in against the Jets, they can win the Stanley Cup.
- If they lose the play-in against the Jets, they can win the first overall pick.