While it appears from the outside looking in that the NHL is inching its way towards a resumption of the season, on the inside there still remains a lot of uncertainty, especially for the coaches. The players may be back on the ice for Phase 2 of the NHL's return to play plan, but the coaches are not. What the coaches are and are not allowed to do is a frequently changing subject that makes it difficult for head coaches to know what to expect or to prepare for camp or the playoffs.
"I think this is a first for everybody, that's for sure," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said in a video conference Monday. "You can try to compare it to whatever is out there in terms of lockouts and different situations, but no one's ever gone through what we're going through now. … That probably was one of the first things I said to our staff and I said to our players is we have to be able to adjust and adapt and fight through some things."
As of now, the head coaches are not allowed in the team facilities with the players and it does not appear they have any timeline for when that may change.
"I'm not allowed at this point to even be at the arena," Reirden said. "That's a specific rule for the head coach. Now maybe that changes and I can get back there. But as of right now, following along with the rules -- and there are very strict rules -- and there's a lot that goes into even what staff you're having with those players and what players are there and how you form those groups. It's been very interesting and something that's a unique challenge, something you've never had to go through in the past."
When Phase 2 began, it really only applied to the players. The good news, however, is that the team recently found out that a limited number of assistant coaches will be allowed on the ice soon.
Starting Thursday, the Caps will have goalie coach Scott Murray as well as assistant coach Blaine Forsythe out with the players in team activities.
"There seem to be little intricacies that are added on a daily basis and it’s how you respond to it," Reirden said. "For example, when we found out that we were going to be able to have a goalie coach, we immediately got in touch with Scott Murray, he made some adjustments to his plans and he got into town [Sunday] so that he can do his testing and be ready to go onto the ice so that on that first opportunity that he can work with Braden [Holtby], he can work with him. Blaine Forsythe came in on Saturday to the DC area and he’s ready to get on the ice and work with Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov, work with two centermen right away and with John Carlson, a power-play guy. We’re reacting when we gain knowledge and we acknowledge as a staff that we have to be prepared and be on our toes for whatever comes our way."
That, at least, is progress, but it is a reflection of how much more work there is left to do before the season can actually begin.
The details for Phase 2, voluntary activities at team facilities, are changing on a day-to-day basis. There is still a lot of information the coaches don't know about how Phase 3, training camps, will look despite a July 10 start date already having been announced. There are still several details that need to be worked out for the resumption of the season as well, and all of those details are critical for head coaches in terms of their preparation.
"I'm still hoping to hear more details here as we get going towards Phase 3 and how training camp's going to look," Reirden said. "We've got a number of different things that we're prepared for and how those can go, whether it be the exact number of players or amount of time we can be on the ice or how that's going to go. As for now, I'm just working on Phase 2."
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