Former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin is the new GM in Minnesota, and on Tuesday, he exuded his vintage optimism when he put forth his belief the NHL return will happen this summer.
Does anyone want to dismiss his positive outlook automatically?
“I think (the season will resume),” Guerin told the team website. “The bottom line is, we’re not doing anything unless it’s safe for everybody. And if it is, I think we will, and I think it would be the right thing to do.”
NHL players have almost exclusively been off the ice since the NHL season shuttered on March 11. The actions were swift as the coronavirus pandemic quickly hit home. Within hours, the NHL briskly moved from allowing games without fans to stopping the season. We later learned the Staples Center in LA was infected, as the LA Times reported officials traced 50% of NBA and NHL infections to the building.
There are several NHL return to play scenarios, but the most popular seems to be neutral site games without fans (and we’ve been told, without media too.).
“And if it is (safe), I think we will (resume). And I think it would be the right thing to do. It’ll be a little unusual, a little unorthodox, but that’s OK,” Guerin said. “If we just wrap our arms around it and accept it, it will be fine. Once we start playing hockey, you play hockey.”
The players’ mental state could be a swing factor amongst teams which rise or fall in the “new normal” world. NHL players likely need to adapt to echoes of skate blades cutting the ice, as empty steel seats bounce the sound back to them instead of 18,000 eager patrons pushing them onward.
For many, it will be a surreal scene. Just imagine every game resembling the last few minutes of Penguins games at PPG.
I kid, I kid.
“I think the teams that come back in the best condition, and not just physically, but the best mental condition, are [going to] have an advantage,” said Guerin to MinnesotaWild.com.
Guerin and his former boss, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, hooked up for one of the first big trades of NHL trade deadline season. Guerin finally dealt winger Jason Zucker to the Penguins in exchange for the Penguins top defenseman prospect, Calen Addison, winger Alex Galchenyuk and the Penguins 2020 first-round pick.
Rutherford attempted to snare the speedy Zucker from Minnesota last summer when Paul Fenton was the Minnesota GM. However, then-Penguins winger Phil Kessel vetoed the deal. The Penguins eventually traded Kessel to Arizona, and the Penguins finally got their man. Guerin was involved on all sides.
Guerin’s Minnesota remake isn’t just on the ice, but the former All-Star and Penguins winger is also preparing his team mentally.
“(Empty arenas are) OK. If we sit here and complain about it or be negative about it, it won’t be good for us; we’ll just be doing ourselves more harm,” the Minnesota GM said. “If we get back to playing in empty buildings or at a neutral site, great, so be it. Let’s just do it and see where we go.”
We’re with Guerin. If an NHL return can be safe, and there is growing belief it can, let’s do it.