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What's happening in the NHL and why it matters for Oct. 11
It's opening night, break a leg.
It’s opening night.
While the NHL season technically opened last week in Prague — the Nashville Predators are already 2-0-0 — the North American launch of the season gets the glitz and the glamor of national television, starting with tonight’s ESPN doubleheader.
The New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 pm (ET), followed by the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Vegas Golden Knights at 10 pm (ET).
I’m a well-documented goalie nerd, so the Rangers-Lightning tilt is an exciting one for me with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Igor Shesterkin.
Vasilevskiy is the best goalie in the world right now and has already entered the conversation as one of the best in the history of the game.
(Side note, never been a fan of the term GOAT for things like this. I’m old enough that I still remember the term goat being a term you wanted to avoid at all costs, hello, Bill Buckner. I’m also part of the last generation that grew up without the internet — I’m 33 — so I realize times change.)
Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy last season, deservedly so, and is now the only goalie you could even put into Vasilevskiy’s zip code when it comes to goaltending excellence.
The pair represents an era of Russian goalie excellence in the NHL, rivaling that of the Quebecois goalie Rennaissance in the 1990s, and both can be fun to watch. Both are incredibly active, great skaters, and while they have size they are proactive in their approach instead of relying on a blocking style.
Of course, now that I’ve waxed poetically about the goalies, we’ll get an 8-7 scoreline or something like that….
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Get ready for digital boards
When you tune in tonight you’ll likely be getting your first glimpse at the NHL’s new digitally-enhanced-dasher boards (DEDs), which allow the league and teams to cater board advertisements directly to specific markets and within 30-second increments.
I wrote at length about the process last week, which you can read about here, if you are a paid subscriber.
The best example I can think of for viewers is what’s happened with soccer broadcasts. If you’ve watched the English Premier League you’ve likely noticed the consistent field-length boards that change throughout the game, that’s the technology the NHL will be using now in all 32 arenas.
Ian Cole suspended
The Lightning suspended Ian Cole on Sunday after allegations surfaced on Twitter that he sexually abused a woman when she was a minor.
Tampa Bay issued a statement on the matter, reading, “Our organization takes these allegations very seriously. While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time.”
The Lightning pro-actively suspending Cole is a step in the right direction, but it also brings out another stark reminder of a major — and inexcusable — shortcoming for the NHL.
The NHL doesn’t have a clear policy on domestic violence or sexual assault. There is a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that allows for suspensions, like Cole’s, but the lack of a clear policy creates some bothersome shortcomings for a sport that has poorly handled these issues with increasing regularity.
There’s a science when it comes to putting players on waivers.
General managers are asset hoarders, so many times it’s not a decision of if they’ll waive a player, but rather when they’ll do it.
That’s why you tend to see two big waiver rush days during the preseason, one early on and one at the last possible minute.
The early waiver push comes with the ideology that other teams’ training camps are so well-stocked, they haven’t made a decision that they would need to bring in another option, at least not yet.
The late push, which happened Sunday when 64 players were put on waivers, comes with the idealogy that teams have made their lineup decisions, they’ll be a bit cap-strapped, and it’s easier for a player to clear at that point.
And it usually works, 59 players cleared on Monday, and only five were claimed. The waivers system gets manipulated by GMs, but it’s a key mechanism that the NHLPA wants within the league, it allows a player to stay in the NHL is he’s “NHL caliber” without being buried by one organization deciding his fate.
What’s happening here
I told people I would give updates on what’s happening with this Substack as well as my writing.
So far I’ve been figuring out some logistical things after my departure from my last job. There have been some conversations about where I could end up writing this season, and some of those have already come to fruition — for example, I’m writing occasionally for D Magazine, my first piece on the Stars for that publication ran last week.
Unless I announce otherwise, and paid subscribers would be the first to know, this site will continue to operate even as I get freelance work. There are several ideas I’m looking forward to tackling and, frankly, I’m having more fun than I ever expected with this endeavor.
There are a couple of things I’m starting to notice/realize as I make these plans.
— Because of my geography, there is going to be a heavy dose of Red Wings adjacent coverage. I’m not claiming to be a Red Wings beat writer, that’s not what this is, but I will be on the hunt for great stories I have access to, which will often include Detroit and whichever team is visiting at that time.
— I’m considering looking into some of the film breakdowns that I worked on when I was the Stars beat writer but instead picking a couple of different topics/teams rather than focussing on one team.
— I’ve always enjoyed doing mailbags, once we grow the readership of this site a bit that will become a semi-frequent feature. I think the mailbag questions will be limited to paying subscribers, just another way we can add more value to the $7/monst subscription.
With all of this, I’m willing and want to be as transparent as possible with readers. If you have a question or an idea or concern, or anything at all, you can reach out to me directly through the comments or via email at email@example.com