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FanFirst Friday: Hockey is Almost Here Edition

It’s September which means that hockey, albeit preseason hockey, will be played this month. Thank the maker.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
It seems like Akira Schmid will get a crack at staying an NHL goalie all season this year. And I’m here for it.
Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Getty Images

The calendar finally turned to September last week and while the NFL returned last night (not that I really care about that), it signals that training camps for hockey will open very soon. Now, September used to be one of my favorite months growing up on the East Coast with the leaves and the crisp air in the morning, but since I moved West, I kind of hate September weather now. It’s almost always one of the hottest months in California with this phenomenon called Santa Ana winds, which are high winds that often cause wild fires and basically make the month a living hell. I also have contracted covid for the third time and honestly, this case is worse than the first two cases which were in May and August of 2022. I’m kind of feeling like a train slammed into me right now, so this column might be shorter than usual.

Despite the hot weather and the consistent coughing making it hard to get a good night’s sleep, I’m in a good mood because I’m ever closer to seeing Jack Hughes and Luke Hughes play together on a nightly basis. I’m this much closer to finding out if Vitek Vanecek can get out of his own head and play like he did for most of 2022-2023 or finding out if Akira Schmid is, in fact, him. Because it sounds like the Hellebuyck dream is officially dead, at least for now.

Tom Fitzgerald appeared on a podcast this week called Murphy’s Law and talked about goaltending and what a random position it is. He also made it sound like Akira Schmid will take the ball and run with it. It starts around minute 23 and ends right around 25:30. It’s definitely worth the watch if you haven’t seen it already:

Is it me or are you kind of hoping the Jets played themselves out of getting anything for Hellebuyck? I mean the guy can walk at the end of the year and unless you think the Jets are better than most think they are, it could be a rough season for them in Winnipeg.

We’ve reached the point in the offseason where people are starting to zone in on training camp battles. Will it be Graeme Clarke or Alexander Holtz to make the roster? How about Nolan Foote? Novo even took his shot at crafting the opening night lineup which I don’t think will be far from what it likely will be. The few main questions being who plays third line for the team, Tomas Tatar still oddly being a free agent isn’t in consideration here. Also what the fourth line might look like, depending on Michael McLeod’s verdict as well. They’ve been saying for a while that the report was imminent but nothing has come as of yet.

Regardless, I’ve gone on record saying that I’m the most excited to watch Jack and Luke Hughes play together in 2023-2024 and I won’t change that now. I fully expect Luke and Jack to be the driving force of this entire Devils organization for a decade. And while folks are excited to watch Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen (I nearly wrote Jake Allen, can you believe that?) toss the pigskin around this week, all football returning ever tells me is that puck drop is ever closer.

I do appreciate preseason hockey as well as sometimes it spawns some fun speculation about the season to come. Often times, it just leads to false hope and a great nickname that never survived until the regular season. One thing I will say is that I fully expect Ondrej Palat to have a great season from the jump this year, provided he can actually stay healthy with a surgically repaired groin. You don’t have the success someone like Palat has had without having immense pride and work ethic. Though clearly the scrutiny will be on his this year, if you look at who the pressure is on headed into 2023-2024. I don’t necessarily agree with the Timo Meier pick here, given that I can’t imagine him not gelling through a full training camp, preseason games and feeling comfortable now in the red and black. But maybe I’m just guessing here.

Also, just a quick update on the post I put up last week. I mentioned my son playing in his first travel tournament. He completed the tournament playing four games and had four goals and five assists playing on the first line. He’s not the fastest or best skater, but he works really hard to get to the right spots and scored some beauties. For someone who has only been skating since June 2022, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be watching my boy play the sport I love more than any other. But more than that, watching your child set a lofty goal and reaching it thanks to hard work and dedication. Well, that’s even better than opening faceoff on opening night.

I’ll leave this thread open for anything Devils. I hope I was coherent and not in too much of a Covid haze. At least I made it through my son’s tournament without him contracting it. I’m now hiding in the bedroom, hoping to keep it away from the rest of my family. See y’all next week, hopefully fully Covid free.