Torey Krug spoke with the media on Tuesday afternoon in the midst of the ongoing stoppage of the 2019-20 NHL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Krug touched on a number of topics, including his future in Boston, potential scenarios that could signal a return to game action later this year, and more. Along with his thoughts on his murky future in Boston, here are a few additional takeaways from the conference call:
1. NHL players are going to need a training camp of sorts to fully get back up to speed.
While the NHL seems committed to resuming the 2019-20 season at some point later this summer, it seems like a given any potential contingency plan, upon approval, will have to feature a window in which players can get back on the ice and shake off the rust formed during the expected months-long break between games.
Krug, who is currently up in Michigan during the quarantine, has been following conditioning routines set down by Bruins head performance coach Kevin Neeld and — like many other NHLers — has picked up running and stationary bikes such as Peloton in order to keep up his conditioning when away from the rink.
However, even with these measures designed to keep athletes in playing shape, Krug was rather straightforward when harping on the need for players to get their legs back under them out on the ice before any potential games can be resumed.
"Absolutely nothing,” Krug said of any off-ice work that resembles skating. “I'll be honest with you and pretty blunt, the reality of it is even rollerblading — yeah, it mimics the motion — but you don't get the build up of lactic acid and having to deal with your groin and hip motion when you're digging into the ice and trying to stop and start and that's a big part of it.
"Riding a Peloton or using a bike to mimic shift lengths, that all helps and it's great, but there's nothing you can do to prepare for the ins and outs of a shift and the physicality of it. Not only are you trying to mimic the skating motion, but there's no way you can train for going into the corner with a guy who's 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and trying to out-battle him and get the puck and skate away from him.
“There’s so many things that we can try to do as individuals, but the reality of it is there's nothing that is going to get us as close as possible into playing shape unless we go into some sort of mini training camp once we get back to this thing."
2. Krug believes league should be ‘creative’ when looking at ways to resume 2019-20 season.
As we quickly approach four weeks since the last NHL game reached our TV sets and laptops, the league has left no stone unturned when it comes to charting a course for the 2019-20 season to resume.
There have been plenty of scenarios tossed out — whether it be resuming regular-season games to settle questions for teams on the bubble, or jumping headfirst into the Stanley Cup playoffs, using the current standings or points percentage to determine the crop of 16 clubs.
Playoff formats featuring even more teams jumping into the ring have also been tossed out as options, while it would also seem unlikely that we’d get arenas packed with fans any time soon.
Such an unorthodox route might be the best practice for leagues looking to wrap up their seasons by the end of the summer — with the NBA examining Las Vegas as a potential site for a playoff tournament in the coming months.
Whether it be up in North Dakota, down in Las Vegas, at an empty TD Garden or even at Warrior Ice Arena, Krug believes every option should be explored when it comes to bringing hockey back in the coming months.
“With so many different unknowns, it's tough to understand what our circumstances will be and what will be available to us. Whether that's back to normal buildings with fans involved or empty arenas, or one of the things being tossed around are neutral sites where teams gather and play in that regard. For me, I think it's just a fairness thing. As long as everyone is in a situation where the playing field is level and we're able to compete for a Stanley Cup, that's our ultimate goal.
“I don't know how it's going to play out, none of us will. It's almost a great opportunity to get creative and see what we come up with. In terms of restoring the integrity of the game, you've got to make sure we're not doing anything crazy — that we can look back on and we want to hang our hats on it and what we were able to do under these circumstances, but the integrity of the game is extremely important, not only to the league, but also the players.
“It's something that we've discussed as well. We want to make sure it's fair and that it resembles something close to what we've had in the rich history of this game. I don't know what I'd recommend, but I just hope we can get back and play and have an opportunity to win a Cup, because this group that we have here in Boston is special and I think there's a lot of other teams around the league that feel the same way."
3. Still, any contingency plan must be prefaced with the necessary steps regarding safety.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman noted on Tuesday the league remains focused on resuming games — even if they drag into the late summer — he added that any possible logistics can’t be reasonably evaluated until the end of April, at the earliest.
As such, the NHL and various other sporting leagues are stuck in a state of limbo, forced to mull multiple contingency operations without any certainty of having the window to enact them.
Even if a plan involving a neutral-site tournament for the postseason is given the appropriate clearance, Krug noted that most players likely won’t feel comfortable following through on it unless safety is placed at the forefront.
“Look, we all want to get back to playing and I think, as hockey players, most people, most guys probably feel a little bit lost in this situation. But I think first and foremost, we have to park that and put that aside and realize that there's something bigger here. If we do have the opportunity to get back to playing, let's be safe about it and be smart, whether that's the health and the safety of the players in terms of jumping right back into intense hockey from our body standpoint or just continuing the social distancing cues that we've been given and the guidelines from that regard.
“No one wants to jump back into a situation where we put a bunch of people in one area and all of the sudden this thing takes off again. Testing, frequent testing is something that would probably help, but we’ve got to make sure that it's really safe to even get to that point where we can even talk about it. I know there's a few guys around the league and certain situations where I don't know if they'd feel comfortable in that situation. That's something where discussions will probably have to continue and we'll have to look at a little bit closer if it does come to that time, but I don't want to make any assumptions up to that point."
4. As for the 2020-21 season remaining unscathed? Krug doesn’t believe that will be the case.