Last weekend in the pandemic era NFL, the Denver Broncos were left stranded without a quarterback after all four rostered QBs were ruled ineligible due to COVID-19 protocols. The Broncos started practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton who hadn’t taken meaningful snaps under center since his freshman year at Wake Forrest. Things were so bad they asked the league about signing two assistant coaches who played QB in college to the active roster. The league said no.
Previously the NFL said it wouldn’t postpone games due to COVID-19 roster eligibility issues. So predictably, the Broncos were smashed 31-3 by the New Orleans Saints.
What if this same pandemic scenario happened to the Vegas Golden Knights with goalies? Or even defensemen?
The question needs to be asked because players simply can’t roll in from the outside in a pandemic world and suit up. During the bubble, teams had a separate goaltender quarantine away from the team just in case. But that was a special circumstance made possible by the bubble setup. If the NHL does not bubble up for the regular season – which doesn’t seem likely – then what happens?
Let’s Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner are both ruled out for COVID reasons. We wouldn’t know that publicly but let’s say that’s the case. Now Oscar Dansk has to come in from either Henderson or come back from a Silver Knights road trip. Does he have to quarantine? For how many days? Will the league consider postponing games? How many games would it postpone, max? Because if the team’s goalies are wiped out we’re talking a week or two depending on how it goes with tests.
Will the league protect teams from blowout losses with a seventh defenseman in goal pads? And is the league (and you the fans) willing to accept that some teams might play 48 games while others might only get to 36 or fewer?
It’s a balancing act. If you want hockey, you’re going to have to accept these are not normal times and that some games would be considered better than none. Broncos fans are upset. But what do you want? Football or no football? It was a long shot to lose four quarterbacks, but it happened. So if you accept that there’s risk in playing games, these are the consequences.
It will be the same with hockey. Even if they go into the potential scenario of gathering into mini-bubbles for a week or two at a time, there’s still risk. And with travel it will be much harder to minimize the risk of infection. Look at football. Or baseball. The NHL and NBA were able to pull it off because they didn’t break the bubble. You will not have that sealed environment this time.
Certainly teams could have the option of keeping a player back and away from the team. Let’s say you sign one of the free agent floaters out there like Jimmy Howard. You’re paying him to stay healthy and in relative game shape. You’re only breaking the glass in case of emergency. But not every team could or would employ that player. Money is tighter than ever and even league minimum makes a difference.
The possibility exists that a team could miss three games in a week if both goalies get sick. Or what if it runs through the room and takes out four D and six forwards? Then what? Perhaps you could dress the Silver Knights roster and accept your losses after they clear quarantine, but not before.
Considering all the options, the most fair and balanced plan is to cancel or postpone games. We must accept not every team will finish with the same number of games played. Some teams will frankly be screwed by this. Some will benefit. The bottom line is do you want to play games or not?
Until we are out of the woods on this pandemic, we can accept that things are different and adapt or fold the tent. The next few weeks will be extremely telling for the league and its players.
Golden Knights Training Camp Day 2 In The Books
Yesterday was a very exciting day as the Vegas Golden Knights took to the ice for the first time in training camp. Day Two wasn’t nearly as exciting, but necessary as things moved forward. Here are a few key takeaways from today’s action.
As of now, Nick Holden remains on what I’ll pencil in as the 7/8 pair with Dylan Coghlan. As I said yesterday don’t read too far into things because the Golden Knights are going to need eight solid D to make this season work. For the time being, it looks like Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague are going to get a chance to show what they can do as a unit. Alex Pietrangelo remained with Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore with Alec Martinez.
Today was more of a jumble of lines as some guys get a look playing up. Among them was Tomas Jurco who took the place of Max Pacioretty with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. Jurco is a guy I love for the VGK because this season because he’s a vet who can slide into the lineup on a moment’s notice and play a variety of roles. Definitely a taxi squad guy who makes you feel better about your depth.
Also, Stephenson is still centering this line. I know many of you wonder if Cody Glass is going to get his shot at the 2C but not yet. Stephenson did look good today, generating a scoring chance off a stretch pass up the middle and showing some speed. He’s skating with confidence early in camp, and I would not be surprised to see him exactly where he is now come opening night.
Finally, it was nice to see Jonathan Marchessault score for the second straight day. If he warms those goal-scoring hands up early, it could be a tremendous campaign for him.
Keep your browser pointed here for more camp coverage!
Tom’s Daily: Handicapping the West Division; Stepan to Sens
Tom’s Daily: Looking at the West Division; Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruseand his unusual senior season; Stepan sent to the Sens; VGK fans have a new streaming option this season.
The West Division should be a fun, competitive division this year. At least in the top half. Here’s NHL.com’s look at how things might shake out. (NHL.com)
Brandon Kruse is working his way through an unusual senior season at Bowling Green. The Golden Knights prospect is projeting better than a point-per-game so far on the ice. (NHL.com)
Derek Stepan was shipped to the Ottawa Senators from the Arizona Coyotes, giving the Sens more center depth and eating up a chunk of that free cap space they had. (Sportsnet)
Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be playing in the NHL this year. Or next year. (NHL.com)
Michael Del Zotto signs a pro tryout contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expect a lot of fringe NHL guys who don’t have deals to be competing for jobs this year. (Sportsnet)
Five questions facing the Florida Panthers heading into training camp. This team could be really good. It could also not. (FloridaHockeyNow)
According to Larry Brooks from the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only major league sports team to receive a paycheck protection loan totaling $4.82M. (New York Post)
Longtime NHL player and executive Dave Poulin is writing for the Toronto Star. Here’s his debut piece. (Toronto Star)
Tom’s Daily: New VGK Schedule; Pacioretty, Lehner Busts?; NHL Breaking News
Tom’s Daily: Breaking NHL news! Plus the Vegas Golden Knights have a schedule and we break it down for you; Bolts find cap relief but it’s not good; more
Vegas Golden Knights
Just in case you missed it, the NHL schedule dropped yesterday and we broke it down for you here. (VHN)
Here’s the team/league release on the schedule as well. (NHL.com)
Breaking News: It looks like the NHL has permission to move forward in Canadian cities. That’s a major sigh of relief. (Sportsnet)
Whew! Gritty has been cleared to return to NHL games this season. (The Hill)
Nikita Kucherov is going to miss the regular season due to hip surgery. While the Lightning certainly don’t want to be without one of the best players in today’s game, it certainly helps their situation with his $9.5M cap hit moved to LTIR. (Tampa Bay Times)
Ryan Miller is back with the Anaheim Ducks on a one-year deal and I love it. I hope Miller, one of the nicest guys in the game, gets to his milestone of 400 wins. It won’t happen this season unless something goes crazy sideways, but he needs 13 more to do it. (ESPN)
The Arizona State University men’s hockey team decided to start the season with a monster 36-day road trip. My personal longest road trip was 18 days and that was a nightmare. I can’t imagine double that. As it turns out, the team wanted it this way. (ESPN)
Are you all fans of fantasy hockey content? I can post more of that type of stuff if you are, let me know in the comments. For now, I’m putting this in here because of Max Pacioretty’s featured status as a fantasy “bust” for this season. Oh, and add Robin Lehner too. Not sure I agree, but here you go. (CBS)