Friday, Friday, Friday! Your favorite hockey team, the New Jersey Devils, will play their first home game of the 2015-16 regular season against the Winnipeg Jets on October 9. The game will be at 7 PM EDT and it will count. While the full 2015-16 regular season schedule will be released tomorrow, most of the league announced their home openers earlier today. So mark your calendars, that's when the Devils will start their home schedule.
But, wait, there's more. The Washington Capitals announced their home opener will be on Saturday, October 10. At 7 PM, they will host the New Jersey Devils. That's right, the Devils will begin the 2015-16 season with a back-to-back set. They had 18 last season. I fear they'll have about the same again. We'll know more tomorrow.
Speaking of the 2015-16 season, there will be some changes. First, the draft lottery will be for the first three spots in the first round. So a tanking Devils team could still lose three lotteries and end up drafting fourth overall if they end up dead last in the standings. I don't think they're going to be good, but I don't see this team finishing 30th out of 30, Second, there will be some rule changes. The NHL Board of Governors approved the following recommendations from the General Managers meeting earlier this week: a new faceoff rule where the defensive team must put their stick down first, a limited coaches challenge for goals scored on plays where there was offsides or goalie interference, and 3-on-3 overtime.
The big one is the overtime format. The AHL had a format where it would be 4-on-4 for five minutes and then 3-on-3 for another five minutes, followed by a shootout if there is still a tie. Instead of adopting that format, it'll be a straight 3-on-3 situation at even strength followed by a shootout. The players opposed the AHL format on the basis that it extended overtime and it meant more playing time - which also means increased workload for some players and increased risk of injury. Now, the key part of that phrase is even strength; special teams are unchanged. A power play in OT is still 4-on-3. If the team with the man advantage doesn't score, then the player comes out of the box and the teams play at 4-on-4 until the next whistle. With fewer bodies on the ice, there will be plenty of space. Will it lead to more non-shootout finishes? We'll see.
The other ones will play more of a minor role. The challenge requires the team making the challenge to still have a timeout. As some coaches like to use a timeout after a long shift ending in an icing or to try to talk the team down if things go poorly, I wonder if this challenge will dissuade them. How many goals really are counted that were offside or involved goalie interference? That answer should guide them. I suspect they'll be a bit more conservative. The faceoff rule takes away some of the home-ice advantage as the visiting player doesn't always have to go first. That only applies at center ice now.
Nevertheless, the 2015-16 regular season is almost revealed. Tomorrow also begins the period where teams can communicate with unrestricted free agents, so expect the rumor mills to heat up. Oh, and there's a NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday. This is the meaty part of the offseason. In the meantime, I want to know: are you going to the Devils' opening night? And how many back-to-back sets of games do you think the Devils will get next season? Please leave your answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.