Well, at least the Witching Hour of the trade deadline drawing nearer feels to have a bit of purpose with Kyle Davidson permanently installed as the General Manager with his interim tag lifted. And now he’ll get the opportunity to really show what his vision for this team is, and he quickly did so by jettisoning part of the pro scouting department, which always seemed to land on players that had previously been in the organ-I-zation but couldn’t play dead. Of course, this now begs the question why both Henrik Borgstrom and Erik Gustafsson sat all three of these games if they are out of favor with the team and are trade candidates with scouts in attendance nightly and the Hawks playing for exactly fuckall with 25 games still to go. Maybe Kyle’s still just getting the hang of this thing.
It can never be said that the general public wasn’t warned about this. This series was always going to be frustrating, surrealist theater with members of each bench desperately trying to give games away, and by the time the final horn blew on Wednesday night, the Oilers had managed to do so in rather impressive fashion, and now sit on the brink of heading home from the preliminary round of whatever these playoffs are despite having at least one, if not two, of the best players on the planet.
It was never going to be as straightforward as it felt like it might be during the first 40 minutes of Game 1 on Saturday afternoon. That fact was smashed home with the force of Mjolnir and the speed of Evan from Superbad right away in Game 2, and it left the Hawks chasing a much faster team from Jump St. to leave the series tied going into a PIVOTAL Game 3 late this evening. Because ALL games are pivotal at the moment. It’s immutable hockey law.
While it was pretty well assumed that the preliminary series between the Oilers and Hawks was going to have all the defensive structure of a Jackson Pollock rough draft, Saturday afternoon’s tilt showed just how silly this whole thing has the potential of getting in a hurry. And fortunately the Hawks came out on top putting the Oilers immediately on their heels in this short 5 game series.
Now begins the portion of the preview to this “series” where any parents allowing their children to read this should probably be reported to DCFS. While both the Hawks and Oilers boast varying concentrations of firepower among their respective forward corps, to call both of these teams a bit of an adventure on the blue line would probably be a bit complimentary. There are gaping fissures in the space-time continuum to be found on either side of the ledger here, and it will be up to the coaching staffs to find them. Ten guesses as to which one is more likely to do so, with the answer to be given on Thursday for the coaching preview.
Well look at that, there’s a Hawks playoff matchup to discuss (kinda). Oh yeah, and plenty of sociopolitical subtext of mass death. But like Cronkite before us, we are the most trusted men in America. Give a listen.
While this country has in no way earned the right to begin discussing the resumption of team professional sports in the way that South Korea has with baseball, or Germany has with Bundesliga soccer given the ghastly disparity in how the pandemic has been handled in the those places versus the United States, the NHL at least got out in front of any of the other team sports by formally announcing how the playoffs and draft are going to work. It’s quite dense, but it’s hockey so it can’t be THAT convoluted.
Now to the big takeaways from the announcement:
- The 2019-2020 regular sseason is officially over, and as such, the top 12 teams via points percentage in each conference are now in this tournament, meaning…..your Chicago Blackhawks have once again qualified for the playoffs, if only by the hair on their ass as the 12 seed in the west.
- The divisional playoff model has been abandoned, and top four seeds will play a round robin to determine their playoff seeding with regular season rules OT rules, concurrent with the remaining bottom 8 teams playing best of 5 series for the right to advance to one of the top four. Bettman notes in the announcement that it has not been determined yet if the first two rounds will re-seed or follow a static bracket, not to mention that the NHL managed to make overtime even more of a clown show by having two different flavors of it conceivably being played on the same day in the early goings. Even at its most competent, there is no circumstance under which the NHL can’t manage to look like dipshits.
- That being said, the Hawks are now locked into a best of 5 series with the Edmonton Oilers when and if play takes place. So that means a matchup in a series against the league’s top two scorers in McDavid and now-Ross winner Leon The Ladies’ Man with a defense that had no structure to begin with, and in general when teams break camp raw skill tends to win against systems. But there’s always the chance that there could be revenge of known method actor Mike Smith. Stranger things have happened.
- Also of local interest is that Chicago is mentioned as one of the potential hub cities, presumably for the Western conference, given the amount of hotels and rinks that are available in the area (the UC, RoseMizon, Sears). Given that there would be multiple games a day concurrently at least in the first two rounds, the time zone issue for starting games past 8:00PM locally here probably wouldn’t loom too large, but it should be considered. Of course, this is operating under the presumption that the city and suburbs have the COVID situation under control, which they absolutely do not right now. But this is the sort of thing the city and state usually trips all over their dicks to incentivize for big business at the expense of common citizens, and during the pandemic things have been no different.
- Bettman made basically zero mention of the medical safety protocols that are going to be enacted during this, such as full cages/facemasks, celebrations, bench spacing, shared towels, water bottles, dressing room procedures, or any number of other things that need to be figured out and will almost certainly be disregarded by players immediately because they’re by and large minimally educated self-declared Sovereign Citizens. He did mention “extensive testing”, which seems like an absolute bare minimum, and limiting traveling parties to cities to a total of 50 people per team, so after 23 players and 3-4 coaches, teams are going to have to be judicious on their staff selections. And taxi squads (since the AHL season is DONE-done) will likely have to be kept remotely.
- With regard to the draft, it’s even more convoluted. Basically, they’re going to hold an initial lottery at the end of June, and then if any team that is going to resume play jumps in order, or “wins” the first round lottery, there will be a second re-draw after the conclusion of the round-robin, best of 5 round.
It was made clear numerous times during the video that none of this is etched in stone and the situation is completely fluid from a lot of different angles. Bettman gave July 1 as the absolute earliest camps could open if everything broke right, but didn’t specify if those would be in hub cities or home cities. There’s still time for all of this to go completely balls up again as states start to re open and cases are likely to spike again after the incubation period. But it’s a start, and now the Hawks can say that Jeremy Colliton got this rag tag group into the playoffs and justify keeping him around until the NEXT pandemic.
Well, the Hawks certainly won’t be able to say that they weren’t the beneficiaries of a bit of good fortune during whatever this so-called playoff push might become, as word just before press time leaked out that Connor McDavid will miss 2-3 weeks with a thigh bruise, which certainly puts him out for tonight’s tilt in Edmonton, and may very well keep him out of the lineup for the UC rematch the first week of March.