A good change by NHL on offside rule, the crazy Rangers schedule, Kucherov surgery and WJC

One of the biggest gripes over the past few years was how often the offside challenge overturned goals. My view on it was when it’s obvious, that’s what it’s there for. When it becomes confusing for both players, coaches and even broadcasters plus fans, then there’s no point. The NHL made a good change regarding when a player is onside that should have a positive impact on games.

Hockey reporter Mollie Walker perfectly tweeted out how the new onside rules will work. It should be easier for refs and linesmen to determine if a player is onside or offside. What that means is less of a delay during coach’s challenges.

As long as the player has yet to break the plane and is on their own side of the blueline. It shouldn’t be as complicated. This is something that they needed to adjust moving forward. Nobody likes when you have lengthy reviews that take forever to determine. It slows down the game to a crawl and it’s not fun for anyone. Let’s hope this will help everyone and make it easier to tell if a scoring play is onside.

In regards to the 56-game schedule, Hasan did a good job breaking it down yesterday. By recreating new divisions to help make it regional and severely cut down on travel due to COVID-19, the league also threw a few wrinkles in that will emphasize the importance of rivalry games. For the Rangers, that means hosting a two-game series at MSG on January 14 and 16 against the Islanders to begin the ’20-21 season. Talk about a great way to kick things off. You will see games between divisional rivals bunched up.

Never is that more apparent than between April 13 thru 18 when the Devils and Rangers hook up for a unconventional four game set that may as well emulate baseball. It starts with the Rangers visiting Newark on 4/13. Then, they’ll host their Hudson rival twice at The Garden on 4/15 and 4/17. It concludes with the Rangers visiting the Devils on Sunday, Apr. 18. Wow. That’s what you’re looking at. It’s worth noting that by limiting the schedule to division only, you’re looking at eight match-ups between teams in the East, Central and West. All consist of eight teams. For the North which features all seven Canadian teams, that means more than eight games. At least nine or even 10 in some cases.

Some highlights of the Rangers schedule includes two at the Penguins on Jan. 22 and 24. Then they go to Buffalo for two against the Sabres 1/26 and 28. The Penguins then visit 33rd and 7th for two on 1/30 and 2/1. This is how crazy the schedule will be for each team. What I like is how they spaced it out. For the most part, back-to-back nights are limited. The Blueshirts have only six. They are:

Saturday 2/20 @ Capitals

Sunday 2/21 @ Capitals

Thursday 3/4 vs Devils

Friday 3/5 @ Devils

Saturday 3/27 @ Flyers

Sunday 3/28 @ Capitals

Thursday 4/8 vs Penguins

Friday 4/9 @ Islanders

Saturday 4/17 vs Devils

Sunday 4/18 @ Devils

Wednesday 5/5 vs Capitals

Thursday 5/6 @ Bruins

Aside from the fact that by adding both Boston and Buffalo, the decision is tough. Especially when you have five playoff teams from this past year in the Bruins, Caps, Flyers, Islanders and Pens. Even the Rangers qualified for the Play-In Round. The Sabres just missed, getting edged out by the Canadiens in the expanded format. They should be improved due to key additions Taylor Hall and Eric Staal. Dylan Cozens could also make his rookie debut. With both Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin a year older, they could compete for a playoff spot in the loaded East Division. It’ll depend on goalie tandem Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton.

On paper, the Bruins, Caps, Flyers, Isles and Pens will be the favorites to earn the four spots. We’re still waiting on the Islanders to re-sign Mat Barzal and make it official with Matt Martin. Due to the salary cap holding steady at $81.5 million, you still have some teams scrambling to get key RFA’s done.

The Lightning were able to re-sign Anthony Cirelli to an AAV of $4.8 million through 2023. Even with the strange news that star forward Nikita Kucherov is expected to miss the regular season due to needing hip surgery, they still have to make a couple of moves. Obviously, Kucherov will go on LTIR. That’ll save the Bolts $9.5 million in cap space. According to puckpedia.com, they still need to clear $2.89 million. Puck Pedia notes that Tampa Bay can be $9.5 million over to begin the season. They’ll figure it out.

There is also the 2021 U20 World Junior Championships going on in Edmonton. Preliminary action will officially begin tomorrow on Christmas Day. The big game is between Team USA and Russia at 7:30 PM in Group B. Earlier action from Group A includes Switzerland taking on Slovakia and Germany battling Finland. USA, Russia, Austria, Sweden and Czech Republic are in Group B. Group A features defending champion Canada, Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland. Obviously, Group B is way tougher.

Canada will be without captain Kirby Dach. The gifted center suffered a fractured right wrist on a hit he took during an exhibition game against Russia yesterday. He will miss time for the Blackhawks, who are banking on the former 2019 third pick to help boost their playoff aspirations in the new Central. It’s a big blow. It looks like the Rangers were right not to send top pick Alexis Lafreniere for that reason. Especially with things getting worked out.

One other important note is after much discussion about whether some Canadian teams would host games in their location such as British Columbia with the Canucks, they agreed to do so. So, there won’t be any concerns right now about where to play games.

In other news, the Devils signed first round pick Dawson Mercer to an entry level contract. He’s one of the key stars returning for Canada’s gold medal defense. That’ll do it for now. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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