Somehow and some way the NHL lockout has ended. After 113 days, hockey is expected to resume on a national stage in the United States and Canada in the next few weeks. The drop-dead date for the NHL and NHLPA to make a deal was Jan. 11, but the two sides were finally able to get the job done late Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
While the details are still being hammered out, the NHL is looking at a 48 or 50-game season with a training camp that’s about a week long. The product may be diminished and injuries may be more prevalent, but at least hockey is back for the fans and workers. Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette is happy to be back and explains his expectations in the following interview.
Peter Laviolette joined WIP In Philadelphia with Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow to discuss the excitement of having the NHL back, making roster decisions with a lack of training camp time, playing consistent in a shortened season and playing more players to compensate for the compacted schedule.
You excited to have the NHL season back and ready to get going?
“I am. It’s been a long wait. I think everybody is excited. You guys are excited, the fans, the players, the coaches, the organizations. Hockey is back; that’s good.”
How does a lack of training camp impact your decision-making for the roster?
“Well, I think there will be a training camp. I haven’t gotten the specific details yet, so I really can’t comment on that because I am not sure what they are. I do believe there will be a training camp, but five days, six days, seven days or eight days? So there is an opportunity to get the players on the ice for all the clubs, to put your systems in place and to see how things look and work on things. I don’t think we will be coming into it without any time at all. I’ve done that before, being hired twice halfway through the season and working oversees for world championship teams and Olympic teams where you only have a day or two days to get things down, to get your time up to speed, and it’s a lot more challenging. But I think to have five days or whatever the time frame is, I think that’s efficient to me to be able to prepare your team for the first game. You’d be amazed with what you could accomplish in one day let alone five or six days. That’s really good for your team. You gotta remember, too, everyone is in the same boat and we are all coming back at the same time. Teams will be working hard to make sure their team is better for the first game.”
How long is the compacted schedule? How does that play into it?
“Well I haven’t been through this. I don’t know if anybody has. … You’d have to have been in the league a long time playing and coaching to have to go back to the last time that it was 48 games or 50 games or whatever it may be. I would imagine the emphasis would be on the games. You think about in a regular season and how important those games are as Christmas rolls by and the new year comes in. The final playoff pushes in the last two to three months of the season and you find yourself not in one of the top eight spots in the conference, every game ratchets up I think. For all teams it would be there right from the start. The importance on making sure of the emphasis on the games and I would think there is not going to be as many practices. There will probably be more games per week and the emphasis is on playing the games and recovering for the next game. It’ll be challenging for teams to be consistent per game and that’s probably where the teams who are consistent in the shortened season will make the playoffs.”
Do you anticipate playing more lines per game or more players to compensate for the compacted schedule?
“I don’t have a crystal ball to see where we are going to be in 20 games. If you were 20-0 and you thought the rolling of the lines went equally to not wear guys out for the playoffs and it would be to your advantage, maybe you would have the luxury of going down that road and probably not too many teams, if any, are going to be in that situation if you find yourself five points out of a playoff spot 25 games from now. You’d be hard-pressed to save any guys for the playoffs. I think the scenario and schedule don’t come into play and you’ll have to manage it day-by-day and see where your team is at. There probably won’t be much of a comfort level for anybody with regard to, I think people will be fighting for points and down the stretch they will be fighting for home ice. There won’t be that luxury that I think you will be talking about. The games are too important. The points are too important. We utilize our whole bench anyway. … Claude Giroux will probably find himself from the 22-minute range some nights. I don’t think that will change, to be honest with you. He’s a young player and a terrific player. He will probably still be in that 22-minute range. It’s not like I’m going to cut him back to 16 minutes to squeeze an extra game in a week.”