Brad Treliving will be paying close attention to the NFL draft.
And not because he’s curious to see if Joe Burrow does indeed go No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals or where fellow quarterback Tua Tagovailoa winds up.
The general manager of the Calgary Flames is planning to focus on how his football counterparts deal with the realities of their world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL closed all 32 of its team facilities in March and cancelled the live, in-person draft spectacle originally scheduled for Las Vegas. Executives will instead submit picks remotely from their homes, away from the so-called “war rooms” where decisions are usually made alongside scouts and other members of the front office.
The selections for Thursday’s first round will still be announced to a television audience by commissioner Roger Goodell, but he’s going to be holed up at his residence outside New York City.
“It’s going to be really interesting,” Treliving said. “I know the NHL is watching what they’re doing closely. We may be following their lead.”
The NHL draft was set to be held June 26-27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal before the novel coronavirus brought society to a screeching halt last month.
Forced to suspend its season, the league last month postponed the draft and its yearly combine, which was scheduled for early June in Buffalo, N.Y. The draft lottery was also postponed.
Eye on ‘how we could potentially’ do NHL draft
With so much hanging on the advice and direction of medical experts, including whether or not the 2019-20 campaign can be completed, when and how the NHL draft is eventually held remains a fluid situation, but it’s safe to assume things will be scaled back.
It could end up like the NFL with proceedings taking place remotely or, if social distancing guidelines are relaxed, might look similar to the 2005 NHL draft that was moved to an Ottawa hotel ballroom in late July following the lockout that wiped out the previous season.
Treliving believes given the current situation, it could be hard to get teams to physically gather in one place.
“Certainly our draft is going to be remote, that would be safe to say,” he said. “For sure I’m going to be watching [the NFL draft] and doing a lot of homework on not only that, but different ideas of how we could potentially do our draft.”
The NFL held a mock draft Monday in hopes of ironing out any technical issues. Officially, only a few minor hiccups arose, but some anonymous sources told The Associated Press there were glitches at the outset when the Bengals were making the first selection.
“Certainly it has been interesting,” Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said of the NFL’s preparations. “We are living in a different time here right now. We’ve had lots of different video sessions internally, getting together with scouts over the different platforms that are available.”
Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Trevor Timmins, who oversees his club’s amateur scouting department, said NHL teams and fans should be able to glean plenty of information from how things play out for football.
“We can learn a lot from that — what works, what doesn’t work,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with my NFL contacts discussing how they are preparing with the limitations.”
How would potential trades be handled remotely?
The NFL combine had already taken place by the time the pandemic shut down much of North American society, but that doesn’t mean teams haven’t had issues gathering information.
“A lot of them do FaceTime interviews with draft prospects,” Timmins said. “They do video conferencing with their staff, they do video conferencing with players.
“We should all pay attention.”
A feature of NHL drafts has been television cameras zeroing in on rival GMs chatting on the arena floor or management groups huddling in deep discussion.
So what would a remote format do to any potential trades?
“A lot of the work on the trades that happen on draft day is done in the weeks and days and hours prior to the draft,” Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “Things do happen quickly on the floor when it comes to the switch of picks, but we’re always on the phone and we can do the same remotely.”
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said because technology is already so ingrained in how teams do business — and even more so in the current climate of self-isolation and social distancing — a remote draft shouldn’t be a huge leap.
“I’m sure I’ll keep an eye on [the NFL draft], but I don’t think it’s going to change much,” he said. “At the draft, we’re around the table, everybody’s on their computer, we’ve got the direct line to the central registry system.
“We make our pick on the computer and away it goes.”
But even though video conference calls have become more common in the current coronavirus climate, Cheveldayoff said given the circumstances, NHL GMs won’t be alone in monitoring the NFL’s unique, technology-dependent draft.
“There’s lots of interesting dynamics,” he said. “You’ll probably see a lot of non-football fans tuning in.”