2019-20 NHL Season Primer: Key dates, new rules, big names in new places

St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube carries the Stanley Cup after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Hockey’s back!

A lot can happen in a single off-season. Trade talks and signing sagas dominated this one. So with that in mind, here’s a primer to get you caught up and ready for the puck to drop on the 2019-20 season.

COACHING CAROUSEL: NEW FACES BEHIND THE BENCH

Seven teams will start the season with new head coaches at the helm. The recent influx of first-time bench bosses we’ve seen over the past year or two has slowed down, with D.J. Smith (Ottawa) the only rookie head coach in 2019-20.

TEAM COACH OUT COACH IN
Anaheim Ducks Randy Carlyle Dallas Eakins
Buffalo Sabres Phil Housley Ralph Krueger
Edmonton Oilers Ken Hitchcock Dave Tippett
Florida Panthers Bob Boughner Joel Quenneville
Los Angeles Kings John Stevens/Willie Desjardins (interim) Todd McLellan
Ottawa Senators Guy Boucher/Marc Crawford (interim) D.J. Smith
Philadelphia Flyers Dave Hakstol/Scott Gordon (interim) Alain Vigneault

Two other coaches, Jeremy Colliton and Craig Berube, are heading into their first full seasons at the helm of their respective clubs after taking over partway into the season last year. Colliton replaced Joel Quenneville in Chicago back on Nov. 6, 2018 and Berube took the reins from Mike Yeo a few weeks later and went on to lead the Blues all the way to the Stanley Cup.

Now, for some quick notes on the new coaches:

Dallas Eakins, Ducks: Eakins, who gets his second shot at being an NHL head coach after a short-lived tenure with the Oilers back in 2013-14, is perhaps the least surprising hire of the group. The 52-year-old thrived behind the bench of the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego over the past four seasons and built a strong rapport with many of the young stars he’ll now be coaching in the big leagues.

Ralph Krueger, Sabres: Like Eakins, Krueger’s only prior NHL head coaching experience was a short-lived stint with the Oilers (Eakins actually replaced Krueger in 2013). The Sabres have had five different head coaches since Lindy Ruff’s departure in 2013, and are no doubt hoping Krueger — who turned heads with his exceptional coaching performance with Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey — can finally help this floundering club forge an identity and charge into the playoffs.

Dave Tippett, Oilers: The well-respected veteran head coach, who won the Jack Adams award in his first year with the Coyotes in 2009-10, spent the past year as a senior advisor with the Seattle expansion club. Both of his coaching stints have been long-term — he coached Dallas for six years followed by eight in Arizona — and now he brings that strong hockey pedigree to a young team in Edmonton that desperately needs a steady hand behind the bench.

Joel Quenneville, Panthers: Coach Q is about as proven a coach as you can get — he’s got three Stanley Cup rings with Chicago and sits second on the NHL’s all-time victory list. He’s a perfect fit with the Panthers, and not just because he’s been reunited with GM and old friend Dale Tallon.

Todd McLellan, Kings: With an aging core and a young wave of talent starting to come in, McLellan — who was fired by the Oilers in November just 20 games into his fourth season in Edmonton — is tasked with re-invigorating a roster that’s not ready to give in and rebuild.

D.J. Smith, Senators: After a wave of first-time head coaches entered the league over the past few seasons, Smith is the only rookie head coach making his debut this year. The 42-year-old has plenty of experience working with young players — he spent the past four years helping the Maple Leafs through their rebuild as an assistant coach — and should be a great fit with the young Senators.

Alain Vigneault, Flyers: The four-time Jack Adams Award finalist (he won it in 2006-07 with the Canucks) brings 16 seasons’ worth of NHL head coaching experience to Philadelphia, and plenty more when you look at the assistants joining him: Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien.

FRONT OFFICE SHAKE-UPS: NEW GMs

TEAM GM OUT GM IN
Detroit Red Wings Ken Holland Steve Yzerman
Edmonton Oilers Peter Chiarelli/Keith Gretzky* (interim) Ken Holland
Minnesota Wild Paul Fenton Bill Guerin
Vegas Golden Knights George McPhee** Kelly McCrimmon
Seattle TBDs N/A Ron Francis

*Gretzky is still with the Oilers as assistant GM
**McPhee is staying with the Golden Knights as president of hockey operations after he announced he was handing GM duties over to then-assistant GM McCrimmon.

NEW-LOOK LINEUPS

We saw some pretty big names cash in as UFAs with new clubs — most of them were former Blue Jackets, making for a bit of a rough off-season in Columbus — plus a few other stars dealt on the trade market. Here’s a brief overview of some of the biggest names we’ll see sporting new sweaters this season:

Matt Duchene, C: From Columbus to Nashville
Duchene’s departure from the Blue Jackets to the Predators was probably the worst-kept secret of free agency. The guitar-playing centreman, who spent most of the past two years in Ottawa, looks right at home in Nashville — both in the city and in the lineup, where he’ll factor prominently into what should be a strong power-play unit.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G: From Columbus to Florida
Bobrovsky’s rock-solid playoff performance last spring helped him exorcise his post-season demons and earned him the highest cap hit of any netminder not named Carey Price. The star netminder takes over from the retired Roberto Luongo on a team that’s set to make some noise this year.

Artemi Panarin, LW: From Columbus to the New York Rangers
The most electric forward of this year’s UFA class was rumoured to be joining Bobrovsky in the Sunshine State, but ultimately fulfilled his dream of playing in a big city when he chose New York. The 27-year-old drastically speeds up the Rangers’ rebuild, making this club an intriguing team to watch.

Joe Pavelski, C: From San Jose to Dallas
It’s the end of an era in San Jose, as Pavelski played a big role on the score sheet and in the locker room as the club’s captain. Now, Little Joe looks to make that same impact in the Big D. Considering Pavelski’s consistent scoring ability and strong leadership, it’s no surprise Dallas pushed to sign the veteran.

Phil Kessel, RW: From Pittsburgh to Arizona (trade)
In Kessel, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins, the Coyotes get an elite goal-scorer with a proven pedigree of winning — a rare find in the desert. Reuniting him with former Penguins assistant Rick Tocchet, who earned the nickname “The Phil Whisperer,” could be the best thing for both parties.

Also, #KachinaKessel is a thing now:

P.K. Subban, D: From Nashville to New Jersey (trade)
Trading Subban and his $9-million cap hit gave the Predators the flexibility to bring in Duchene, while Subban’s arrival in New Jersey gives what was a bit of a no-name club just a few short years ago another boost of star power to go with Taylor Hall, 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes and 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier. With those guys up front and Subban headlining the blue line, the Devils are going to be fun to watch.

Nazem Kadri, C: From Toronto to Colorado (trade)
The biggest piece of a blockbuster deal between the Maple Leafs and Avalanche, Kadri is in a position to thrive with a fresh start. Currently slotted on the second line between Tyson Jost and fellow newcomer Andre Burakovsky, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him approach the kind of career-high numbers he posted just a few years ago (32 goals and 61 points in 2016-17).

Meanwhile, Tyson Barrie — the biggest piece sent Toronto’s way in this deal — gives the Leafs a boost on a blue line that really needs it.

Justin Faulk, D: From Carolina to St. Louis
Faulk’s departure from the Hurricanes felt like a long time coming, and he wasted no time committing to the Blues with a seven-year extension. The smooth-skating rearguard adds a little more finesse — and a lot more power-play strength — to the Stanley Cup champions’ already-strong blue line.

KEY RULE CHANGES

Expanded video review and coach’s challenges headline this year’s rule changes, with a new play stoppage rule and stronger helmet regulations being added to the rulebook, too.

Mandatory video review of all major & match penalties: Referees will automatically review all major and match penalties, with the exception of fighting majors. This on-ice reviewal will either confirm a penalty as called or reduce it to a two-minute minor penalty, but cannot result in a penalty being rescinded altogether.

Optional video review of high-sticking double minor penalties: Referees will also have the option of reviewing double minor calls for high-sticking. Though not mandatory, referees can confirm their call and also ensure the stick in question did, in fact, belong to the player being penalized to ensure maximum accuracy and cut down on penalties that were really just cases of friendly fire.

Expanded (and unlimited) coach’s challenges: In addition to challenging for cases of off-side and goaltender interference, coaches can now challenge scoring plays that follow offensive zone infractions that should have resulted in a whistle, as long as the puck didn’t exit the attacking zone between the infraction and the goal being scored. These cases include:

i) Pucks hitting spectator netting;
ii) high-stick passes in the offensive zone;
iii) offensive zone hand passes.

Coaches will not be permitted to challenge penalty calls on scoring plays and other stoppages deemed “discretionary.”

Penalties for unsuccessful challenges: Up until this point, a coach could only issue a challenge if the club had a time out available. That’s no longer the case, with coaches now able to issue a challenge at any time — but not without consequences. The first unsuccessful challenge will result in a minor delay of game penalty for the challenging club. Each additional unsuccessful challenge after that will result in a double minor delay of game penalty.

Consistent with last year, the NHL’s Situation Room in Toronto will remain responsible for initiating video review during the final minute of regulation time and throughout overtime.

Increased player safety on helmet rule (Rule 9.6): If a player loses his helmet during play, he must immediately leave the playing surface or replace his helmet if he wishes to remain on the ice. Failure to do so will result in a minor penalty. If a player loses his helmet during a play in which he’s immediately involved, referees will grant him the opportunity to complete that play before exiting/replacing his lid. Any player failing to comply with this will be issued a minor penalty.

Also, a minor roughing penalty will be issued to a player who intentionally removes another player’s helmet during play.

Consequences for forced play stoppage: As hockey fans know, a defensive team cannot conduct a line change after icing the puck in even-strength play. Now, that same rule will apply in two additional scenarios:

i) A goaltender freezes the puck on any shot taken from outside centre ice;
ii) A skater (not the goalie) on the defensive team forces a stoppage in play by unintentionally dislodging the net. (As was the case prior to this season, intentionally dislodging the net is grounds for a minor delay of game penalty to the offending team.)

Face-off flexibility on offence: If the defensive team forces a stoppage in play, the offensive team can now choose which side of the offensive zone the face-off will take place. This applies to the following four scenarios:

i) A goaltender freezes the puck on any shot taken from outside centre ice;
ii) A skater on the defensive team forces a stoppage in play by unintentionally dislodging the net;
iii) The defensive team ices the puck;
iv) First face-off to commence a power-play

Didn’t catch all that? Here’s a handy video to break it all down:

IMPORTANT DATES

Mark your calendars, hockey fans.

October
1 – Deadline to set opening night playing rosters, 5 p.m. ET
2 – NHL regular season begins | Blues raise Stanley Cup banner
4 – 2019 NHL Global Series, Chicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Prague)
21 – 2019 NHL Alumni Awards Gala Celebration (Toronto). This year’s honourees: Ray Bourque, Laila Anderson, Chris Joseph, Cliff Koroll, Veteran Captain Charles Scot-Brown. Actor (and Blues fan) Jon Hamm will be the emcee for the evening.
26 – 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic, Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets (Mosaic Stadium | Regina, Saskatchewan)

November
8 & 9 – 2019 NHL Global Series, Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres (Stockholm, Sweden)
15 – Hockey Hall of Fame Game, Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto)
18 – Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (Toronto). 2019 inductees: Hayley Wickenheiser, Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Jim Rutherford, Jerry York.
19 – General manager meeting (Toronto)

December
1 – Signing Deadline for Group 2 free agents (RFA). Players left unsigned after this date are ineligible to play in 2018-19 NHL season.
9 & 10 – NHL Board of Governors meeting (Pebble Beach, CA)
12 – United States Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (Washington D.C.). 2019 inductees: Gary Bettman, Brian Gionta, Neal Henderson, Tim Thomas and Krissy Wendell.
20 to 27 – Holiday roster freeze. Runs from 11:59 p.m. local time on Dec. 19 through until 12:01 a.m. local time on Dec. 28.
24 to 26 – Holiday break. No games.
26 to Jan. 5 – 2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships (Czech Republic)

January
1 – 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars (The Cotton Bowl | Dallas, TX)
16 – CHL/NHL Top Prospects game (Hamilton, Ont.)
24 to 26 – NHL All-Star Weekend (Enterprise Center | St. Louis)

February
8 – Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada (Yellowknife, NWT)
15 – NHL Stadium Series, Los Angeles Kings vs. Colorado Avalanche (Falcon Stadium, U.S. Air Force Academy | Colorado Springs, CO)
24 – NHL Trade Deadline, 3:00 p.m. ET.

March
2 to 4 – NHL General Managers meeting (Boca Raton, Fla.)

April
4 – Final day of 2019-20 regular season
TBD – NHL Draft Lottery (Toronto)

May
8 to 24 – 2020 IIHF World Championship (Switzerland)
22 to 31 – 2020 Memorial Cup (Kelowna, B.C.)

June
1 to 6 – NHL Scouting Combine (Buffalo, N.Y.)
17 – NHL Awards (Las Vegas)
26 & 27 – NHL Draft (Montreal)

July
1: 2020 Free Agency opens, and we do it all over again.

CBA DECISIONS

In September, both the NHL and NHLPA announced decisions to not re-open the current collective bargaining agreement following the 2019-20 season. This is great news for hockey fans, as it means the two sides avoid a potential lockout in September 2020. The 10-year agreement signed by the NHL and NHLPA back in 2013 following the previous lockout included an opt-out clause for both sides at the eight-year mark. The current CBA will now run through Sept. 15, 2022. In the meantime, negotiations will continue on an extension without the threat of an impending work stoppage.

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