Flyers

After seeing 3 NHL lockouts, Chris Therien explains how 2019-20 stoppage is different

After seeing 3 NHL lockouts, Chris Therien explains how 2019-20 stoppage is different

If there’s any league prepared to handle a work stoppage, it’s the NHL.  

However, the current hiatus is quite unprecedented. Former Flyer and current Flyers Pregame and Postgame Live analyst Chris Therien has been through three lockouts — two as a player and one as a broadcaster for the team.

He said the current hiatus presents much bigger issues.

“Everyone has to do the best they can to stay in shape, but access to ice rinks is going to be an issue,” Therien said Tuesday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

After President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency last weekend, access to virtually any non-essential establishment has become problematic. Many cities in North America have been shut down and this was not an issue NHL players faced during the 1994-95 lockout.

Therien and his teammates were able to keep playing hockey during that hiatus. The 1990 third-round draft pick appeared in 34 games for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.  

“The first one wasn’t hard,” Therien said. “I made the Flyers, I had never played an NHL game and I was ready to go. Terry Murray called me into his office and told me I was going down to Hershey. He said we need you to play and that if we had a game in a couple of days, I would be in the lineup.”

Ten years later, the situation was much different, as the NHL once again locked its doors in 2004-05.

“We knew it was coming,” Therien said. “Keith Primeau and a couple of guys, along with myself, got the ice at Medford Ice Rink. We did that for a while, but then it got old, and you would notice some of the guys stopped coming. Guys did go play in Europe, I didn’t. I had a young family at the time. We tried to stay busy, but it wasn’t like this.”

Eventually the league cancelled the entire season, a move that Therien never believed was a possibility. 

“I didn’t ever think they would actually cancel a whole NHL season,” he said.

That reality seems to be on the table once again. With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, anything is on the table for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

“I’m anticipating and hoping we play again,” Therien said. “The players, the media and the fans, though, may have to prepare for that reality. I never thought it would happen in 2004 and that wasn’t anything like what we’re dealing with now.”

The 1994-95 and 2012-13 lockouts resulted in condensed seasons, which Therien referred to as “mad scrambles” to the finish. When asked to compare what this year could be like if/when play resumes, Therien said 2019-20 will be much different.  

“You’re going to start at the playoffs,” Therien said. “You’re supposed to be getting ready now and you’re not, that’s the big difference. This isn’t January, we’re already in it.”

Until then, the hockey world waits for the tape-to-tape passes, the shaking of the boards and the sound of the goal horn to return. 

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2020 NHL playoffs: Phase 2 date set in plan to resume season

2020 NHL playoffs: Phase 2 date set in plan to resume season

The NHL has targeted Monday of next week as the start of Phase 2 in its plan to resume and finish the season.

Phase 2 permits players to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.

Below is a statement Thursday night from the NHL:

Beginning June 8 — subject to each club’s satisfaction of all of the requirements set out in the Phase 2 Protocol — clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice). Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning. Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp.

All necessary preparations for Phase 2, including those that require player participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately. The NHL and the NHLPA continue to negotiate over an agreement on the resumption of play.

Here is the NHL's detailed protocol for Phase 2. Phase 3 (mandatory team training camps) won't happen before July 10, which means the implementation of Phase 4 (resuming play) can occur at the earliest late July, with the beginning of August an option.

The NHL on Thursday also announced further details on the 24-team return-to-play format, which looks good for the fourth-seeded Flyers.

Players and permitted personnel returning to Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, could be an important step toward the club finishing its 2019-20 resurgence.

"This is obviously something a little different, but we’ve got a lot of experience," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in late April. "I’m very confident that we can get something together that’s going to be very efficient for the players, very efficient to get our team ready and hopefully that’s what happens.”

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2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' chances look even better now in 24-team format

2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' chances look even better now in 24-team format

The Flyers' outlook for the NHL's 24-team return-to-play format appeared to improve Thursday.

The 2020 playoffs will consist of reseeding after every round instead of a bracket style. The NHL and NHLPA also agreed that each round will feature best-of-seven series following the best-of-five qualifying round.

How is this a good thing for the Flyers? As the fourth and final seed in the round-robin tournament, they can only improve their standing, which we already knew. The Flyers have a chance to climb as high as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and can't fall any lower than their current spot at No. 4.

But the reward of being the No. 1 seed was uncertain as the league was still determining the whole reseed vs. bracket dilemma. On paper, the top seed would not have been as attractive in a bracket format given it would face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup no matter what. Now, the No. 1 seed will face the lowest remaining seed to prevail after the qualifying round. So say the 12th-seeded Canadiens upset the fifth-seeded Penguins, the top seed will face Montreal. Whereas in a bracket style, the fourth-seeded club would have benefitted from such a situation by facing the lowest-seeded Canadiens, while the No. 1 seed would face a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

The Flyers are truly in a no-lose situation. They already have their bye and getting the No. 1 seed means a better matchup now. If the Flyers do well in the round-robin tournament, they climb. If they struggle, they stay put. Not a bad spot at all. And there's no reason they should dislike their chances against the Bruins, Lightning and Capitals.

The bracket style would have made for more parity and drama, particularly in a betting aspect. But the league and its players have also stressed keeping the integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ultimately, the top seeds should be rewarded for their work in the regular season and be given the best possible matchups.

Here are the East's qualifying-round matchups and seed Nos. 1-12.

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

1. Bruins
2. Lightning
3. Capitals
4. Flyers
5. Penguins
6. Hurricanes
7. Islanders
8. Maple Leafs
9. Blue Jackets
10. Panthers
11. Rangers
12. Canadiens

For the timeline of a possible resumption and the decisions still to be made, click here.

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