TSN Hockey Insiders Chris Johnston and Darren Dreger join host James Duthie to discuss resting Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid for the remaining games, an update to the status of Predators goalie Juuse Saros and the impact of COVID-19 on the 2021-22 regular season with it coming to a close.
Leafs, Oilers resting some stars down the stretch?
With just a couple of days left in the regular season for teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers who are locked into their current positions, the only question remains: who play and who doesn’t. Are some of the superstars leaning toward sitting out?
Johnston: That’s what it sounds like. And certainly, you know, Mitch Marner in particular I think was an interesting discussion and decision because he’s got 97 points. There’s still a chance for him to hit that 100 milestone had he played on Friday against Boston. Ultimately it was decided for him not to do that and Mitch Marner himself was part of the decision. And, you know, the message from him was simply he wants the best chance to chase a Stanley Cup, that’s what this season is about more than any personal achievement. So he was very much on board with the Maple Leafs’ decision. Connor McDavid it sounds like won’t be playing Friday as well. Auston Matthews will too be held out. So obviously there’s big pressure on these teams now for their performances to start next week, not what they can do at the end of this week.
What might the future look like for Copp, Kane?
Both Andrew Copp with the New York Rangers and Evander Kane with the Edmonton Oilers have been huge additions to their respective teams. What is the likelihood of them re-signing over the summer?
Dreger: Well I can tell you that both the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers are going to try as hard as possible to extend the contracts of Andrew Copp and Evander Kane. Now, there’s no guarantee, of course. These guys are both pending top unrestricted free agents. In Andrew Copp, talk about a chemistry experiment that has been highly successful. Perfect fit with Artemi Panarin. And Evander Kane has been an excellent complement on the left side with Connor McDavid. But you do have to go through the negotiation. I’m told the New York Rangers are going to push hard – hard – to extend Andrew Copp, we can understand why. Likewise for Evander Kane and the Oilers. But you wonder about the term between Kane and the Oilers. Is three years too much? We’ll have to find out.
What’s the latest on Saros?
Few teams relied on goaltending more than the Nashville Predators during the regular season, so Juuse Saros’ injury has the potential to be incredibly costly. How’s he doing?
Johnston: Well, injuries are kept under lock and key at this time of the year. But it does sound like the Nashville Predators are preparing to start the playoffs without Juuse Saros in their net. And as you mentioned, that’s significant. He appeared in 67 regular season games for them. More than anybody else. The injury that he suffered earlier this week in the game against Calgary was described to me as one that would typically keep a player out for weeks. Now, Saros and the Predators are going to do everything they can to shorten that timeline to get him back as soon as possible. But certainly with Round 1 starting in a matter of days it sounds like the Predators are down to Connor Ingram or David Rittich in their net.
Coach’s challenges in the Stanley Cup Playoffs
You’d think after a full season that coaches are so ready for the playoffs that they would know all the rules inside and out. And yet, perhaps when it comes to coach’s challenges, that’s not necessarily the case?
Dreger: Not necessarily, you’re right. And that will be a pre-series conference call agenda item. We know that the National Hockey League talks to the general managers and the playoff series executives involved. One concern that the NHL has is the fact that some of these coaches will continually ask the officials on the ice ‘Is that a challengeable play?’ Look, it’s not the official’s job to dictate whether or not a coach wants to make that coach’s challenge. So they are going to remind the coaches, they’re going to remind the officials. Know it, and if you want to call it you can call it. But look, officiating is always a big deal going into the postseason and this will be one of the items. And oh by the way, they’ll also tell all the coaches and general managers ‘We’re going to enforce the standard.’
COVID-19 impact on regular season
Back in December with COVID-19 ripping through the league and cancelling a number of games, there was doubt whether or not the NHL would get through its regular season.
Dreger: That’s fair. And I think there’s a huge sense of relief in the head office of the National Hockey League and the head office of the National Hockey League Players’ Association as well. You think back to all of the protocols and the hurdles that both of those governing bodies had to overcome, especially in the first half of the season where there were some pretty sketchy stretches. Now, this doesn’t come without penalty. With limited capacities in certain venues, empty venues in Canada, there’s a ballpark figure of upwards of $300,000,000 in lost revenue because of the pandemic. So revenue streams are back online, the season has been long, over 2,400 games played. It’s a success.