Not much is going right for the Detroit Red Wings this season. They have what is by far the worst record in the league, are on track for one of the worst seasons in franchise history and of the entire modern era in the NHL, and enter Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) on a five-game losing streak.
They will also be without two more veterans in that game as defenseman Mike Green and forward Frans Nielsen will be sidelined after exiting Monday’s game in Colorado.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill announced on Tuesday that Green will likely be sidelined for a few weeks, while Nielsen’s injury seems to be more short-term.
Green and Nielsen are two of the veteran players on the Red Wings’ roster and are both struggling to produce when healthy. The Red Wings as a team have missed more than 200 man-games due to injury this season. Along with Green and Nielsen, the Red Wings are also currently without Anthony Mantha (more on him in a second), Andreas Athanasiou, Danny DeKeyser, and goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Mantha still at least a month away
Mantha’s injury has been one of the most significant. He has been sidelined on two different occasions this season, and most recently since mid-December with an upper-body injury.
Blashill said on Tuesday that Mantha is still at least a month away from returning and that it’s “going to be a while before he is healed.”
Even though Mantha has played in just 29 games for the Red Wings this season he is still the team’s third-leading goal scorer (12 goals) and fifth in total points (24 points). He scored 25 goals (with 48 total points) in 67 games a year ago. Since becoming a regular in the Red Wings’ lineup he’s scored at a 30-goal pace over 82 games. The 25-year-old forward is a restricted free agent after this season.
“What does ‘change the game’ mean? ‘Change the game’ means change the narrative,” Subban said. “The narrative has been the same — no justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen; change needs to come, but we need everyone. We need everyone and all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part. I’m committed to that. I’m committed to that through and through.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the fund for six-year-old Gianna Floyd is nearing $900,000 from over 26,000 donors.
Subban wasn’t the only NHLer going good on Wednesday. Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins announced a $25,000 donation to the Boston branch of the NAACP as well as $25,000 to Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.
During the latest episode of “Our Line Starts,” Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp argued that the 2020 Stanley Cup might just be the toughest to ever win.
However you feel about that, others argued similarly. Back in mid-April, Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty also argued that the 2020 Stanley Cup might require the most from players.
“I think this will be the hardest Stanley Cup to win out of all of them,” Pacioretty told Gary Lawless of the Golden Knights’ website. “Look at all the obstacles. Who knows when we’re going to play, where, fans or no fans, everything is up in the air …”
Again, Pacioretty made that observation in April, before the NHL announced its return-to-play plans. Jones and Sharp argued their point with more information about the process. The larger arguments remain pretty similar, though.
Of course, as Jones and others also note, there are still a lot of hurdles to clear. Laying out a play to hand out the 2020 Stanley Cup doesn’t mean you’ll reach that destination.
But Pacioretty and others provide some room for debate. Could a run for the 2020 Stanley Cup prove to be the toughest of them all?
How a run to the 2020 Stanley Cup could be especially difficult
While the sheer uncertainty of the situation provides the best fodder, you could also lean on the nitty gritty details. Consider how difficult the path could be for a Qualifying Round team trying to win the 2020 Stanley Cup.
Said team would jump into a high-stakes, best-of-five series with a potentially dangerous opponent. Only then would they make the typical “Round of 16” you’d associate with the postseason.
The NHL hasn’t announced how long each (traditionally best-of-seven) First Round and Second Round series would be. However, we do know that the league aims for best-of-seven series during the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, along with the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.
So … yeah, that could present a treacherous path. Especially for teams in that Qualifying Round, but Round Robin teams like Pacioretty’s Golden Knights wouldn’t have it easy, either. And that’s before we get into the logistics of living in a hub city, potentially away from family, friends, and other comforts.
NHL seasons have faced other extraordinary/unusual challenges
Yes, these are strange times — in some ways, unprecedented — but the NHL’s seen other serious challenges.
As you may know, the league faced serious disruption from another epidemic. The 1919 Stanley Cup was not awarded thanks to “The Spanish Flu.” (Gare Joyce recently looked back at that, and how it may illuminate the league’s struggles with COVID-19, for Sportsnet.)
Each team had many players who were on active service during the war. In hockey’s “Victory Lineup” at the start of the 1942-43 season, the Boston Bruins had 16 players, the Canadiens 11, the Chicago Black Hawks seven, the Brooklyn Americans eight, the Detroit Red Wings eight, the New York Rangers 19 and the Maple Leafs 14.
Pacioretty himself weighed the significant challenges of going for the 2020 Stanley Cup with some unusual advantages. Most obviously, players will be as healthy as they’ve ever been this late in a season.
Considering how people often complain of rigorous travel, one perk of the “hub city” system would involve far more limited movement. (From a quality of life standpoint, that’s probably mostly negative. Players would prefer to see friends and family, and the comforts of home. But still, it’s worth at least mentioning in passing.)
2020 Stanley Cup not the only unusual circumstance
Thanks to lockouts and/or lockout-shortened seasons, we’ve also seen players enter postseasons in less typical circumstances. Sure, some will worry that the 2020 Stanley Cup winner might get the “asterisk treatment.” There are people who probably still discredit, say, the 2005-06 Hurricanes for winning it all during an unusual season.
Overall, Jones, Sharp, and Pacioretty all have decent larger points. The sheer uncertainty of this situation should make it difficult. That’s especially true for the NHL players who are most aptly “creatures of habit.”
Panthers defenseman Anton Stralmancandidly spoke about the many obstacles the NHL faces in determining a 2020 Stanley Cup winner while managing risks. It won’t be easy to win it all, but then again, it rarely is, right?
Check out the full episode of “Our Line Starts” below:
When Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL’s Return to Play plan last week, he noted 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada are under consideration. Two will be chosen with the strong likelihood one will also host the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.
First, here are the 10 cities in the running:
• Chicago, IL
• Columbus, OH
• Dallas, TX
• Edmonton, AB
• Las Vegas, NV
• Los Angeles, CA
• Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
• Pittsburgh, PA
• Toronto, ON
• Vancouver, BC
“I’m going to probably have to make a decision collectively on this probably in three weeks,” he said on the May 28th episode. “I think in two weeks we’ll start narrowing down further. Somewhere around three weeks we’re going to have to pull the trigger and finalize the arrangements and make the deposits.”
In order to play host, a hub city will need secure hotels, facilities for games and practices, and good transportation. Most importantly, there will need to be low COVID-19 case rates, cooperation from local government, and the availability for mass testing.
The three Canadian cities face the biggest challenges. The government has a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said discussions are “on-going” between public health officials and the NHL.
How badly does Edmonton want in? Alberta premier Jason Kenney sent a request to Trudeau asking that NHL personnel be exempt from travel and quarantine restrictions to improve their chances.
Vegas, baby, Vegas
Meanwhile, Las Vegas has emerged as a favorite. Nevada is about to enter Phase Two this week, with businesses and casinos set to reopen. That’s a huge boost for the city’s chances given the amount of available hotels. The lack of ice sheets compared to other cities could be helped by the installation of additional surfaces, reported The Athletic last week. The total package is a reason why the conference finals and Cup Final could also take place there.
Host cities with a team involved, however, may not get to root them on. The league may put them in the other hub city or, if they do stay home, the players would have to follow the NHL’s guidelines. “[I]f a team happens to be in its own market, the players I don’t think should be planning on going home,” Bettman said.
The NHL is expected to move into Phase 2 this week with players in small groups doing voluntary non-contact skating and off-ice training. The next step would be training camps opening up no earlier than July 10 and a possible resumption of the season by early August.
In the latest edition of Our Line Starts, Liam McHugh, Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones break down the NHL Return to Play plan and take a look at a few potential hub cities. Plus, they preview some of the more exciting playoff matchups, including Penguins vs. Canadiens, Hurricanes vs. Rangers, Oilers vs. Blackhawks and Predators vs. Coyotes.
3:55-5:40 Is the Return to Play format fair? 6:45-8:05 Hub city discussion 8:05-10:50 Can Montreal upset Pittsburgh? 10:50-13:40 Intriguing Hurricanes-Rangers matchup 13:40- 15:50 Bracket vs Re-seed debate 16:30-18:45 What to make of Oilers vs Blackhawks 18:45-21:05 Coin flip between Coyotes and Predators