In just two days from now, NHL training camps will open for 24 teams. It is hard to believe that it was on March 11th that the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Rangers 3-2 in OT. Remember that? It seems like forever ago. Well, on Monday, the Rangers will formally open (reopen?) the Madison Square Garden Training Center for “training camp.” By then, we all will have gone 124 days without hockey.
New York will be competing for one of the four East qualifier spots into the playoffs. There are eight East teams who were on the playoff bubble when the season was suspended on March 12; those eight will play a best of five series in Toronto to enter the playoffs. The eight teams in the West that were on that bubble will play their qualifiers in Edmonton. The four teams from each conference that lose their qualifier series will get an equal chance at the number one pick in the 2020 NHL entry draft (i.e., Alexis Lafrenière), to be held at a later date.
As for those of us who are missing Devils’ hockey, the wait will be much longer than Monday morning. As almost all fans already know, the post-season play that the Rangers are preparing for will not happen this year for New Jersey. The wait will be until at least November to see the Devils open training camp in Newark. The Devils had an incredibly disappointing season in 2019-20, winding up with a 28-29-12 season record, last in the Metropolitan Division. The team was 25th out of 31 teams in goals for and 29th out of 31 in goals against.
This horrific showing let Head Coach John Hynes to be let go mid-season; Alain Nasreddine was named as the interim. Although he did an excellent job, it was no secret that the Devils were looking for an experienced, previously very successful, head coach for the permanent duties. This week Hynes’s permanent replacement was named. The new head coach, Lindy Ruff, ranks fourth among all NHL head coaches in regular season games (1,493), sixth in wins (a 56.1% win record in that position with Buffalo and Dallas). His specialty while serving as assistant coach for the Rangers these past three seasons has been defense (the position he played in the NHL). At the same time, Tom Fitzgerald, who has been interim GM since January, was given the GM title permanently. Ruff took over the head coaching duties immediately after being announced on Thursday, when the Devils also announced that Nasreddine would continue as part of Ruff’s coaching staff.
As for the Rangers, they are scheduled to have 13 days of training camp before traveling to Toronto to play their qualifying series. Travel day for all qualifying teams is July 26. From July 28 through July 30, all the qualifiers will play exhibition games, looking toward to as series beginning for the Rangers on August 1. The Blueshirts best of five series against the Carolina Hurricanes is scheduled to begin on that date. The Canes will be the “home” team on 8/1, 8/3, and the Rangers will be the “hosts” on 8/4. If more than three games are necessary to determine the winner of the series, Carolina will host on 8/6 and, if needed, NYR will do so on 8/8. Whichever team wins the qualifying series will go on to the playoffs, which are tentatively to begin on August 11.