The TSN Hockey Insiders share the latest details on the growing frustrations in Vancouver, the fallout from the Senators' postponements due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the potential sale of the Penguins, and Dion Phaneuf's future in the NHL.
Canucks to remain patient
James Duthie: Three Insiders all in different places tonight. Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston. With due consideration given to Montreal and Ottawa, there is no more anxious, angry market right now than Vancouver. GM Jim Benning meets with ownership. What comes out of that, Dregs?
Dreger: Well, look you’re right. I mean, Vancouver fans are seething, there’s no question about that. Benning did meet with Francesco Aquilini. I think all involved with the Vancouver Canucks organization, ownership, management, certainly coaching know that their play on the ice has been unacceptable. But change isn’t coming, at least not quite yet. The belief is that ownership is willing to continue to be patient but the expectation is that the results on the ice have to change.
NHL no choice in postponing Sens games
Duthie: In Ottawa, it felt inevitable the games would finally have to be cancelled with basically half the roster in COVID protocol. What are the implications going forward for the Sens, for the league, for the Olympics?
Dreger: Well unfortunately, to be determined, James. Look we know that the Ottawa Senators, case by case, were sick. The large majority of those COVID-19 cases were guys who were legitimately ill so that’s a big concern to the National Hockey League doctors and the players association doctors because these men are vaccinated. So what happens next? It goes beyond the Olympics. It’s about getting the 82-game regular season schedule in, it’s about the recovery of hockey-related revenue so there can’t be another or too many more cases like the Ottawa Senators in general or the NHL is in trouble.
What would it take to pull out of Olympics?
LeBrun: And Dregs, I mean there is no hard rule or number that you’re looking at in the Olympic agreement between the NHL and NHLPA. It’s not like if this many games are postponed, they’re out. It’s more a good faith back and forth, a good faith negotiation discussion between the NHL and NHLPA and making a decision in that moment ahead of the January 10th opt-out for the NHL and NHLPA to get out of the Olympics. But it’s going to take certainly probably more than one team outbreak for both sides to feel like they’re going to pull out. One thing to keep in mind is in the meantime both sides continue to plan for the Olympics. They had another preparation call on Monday between the NHL and NHLPA ahead of Beijing.
Boosters recommended for NHLers with J&J shot
Johnston: And Pierre, as they look at all these breakthrough cases, players that were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being told now in the NHL to get their booster shot. That’s largely been communicated through the teams, not anything formal, but I think we might see something formal from the league at some point in the next couple weeks. I know there’s been a lot of dialogue between the NHL and NHLPA and some concern of course about the waning efficacy of some vaccines out there.
Duthie: I happened to watch Moneyball on the weekend and there’s a scene where the actor playing Red Sox owner John Henry says to Brad Pitt/Billy Beane, ‘first guy through the wall always gets bloody.’ That really has nothing to do with the John Henry and the Red Sox ownership buying the Penguins, Pierre, but I love the movie and I love the line so I had to use it. Anyway, is that going to happen?
Fenway Sports Group in talks to buy Penguins
LeBrun: There’s some pretty serious momentum right now. What I was told after the Wall Street Journal broke this bombshell story on this day is that they’re in serious, deep talks but nothing is finalized. In fact, the Fenway Sports Group, led by John Henry, they have to have an internal vote on this. There are other issues within this proposed agreement that still have to be ironed out between the two sides. But there is momentum. And so let’s see where this goes. What I can tell you is that Mario Lemieux would remain as part of a minority stakeholder in the team if this deal goes through. Still not determined what it means for current majority owner Ron Burkle, whether he stays in some role or not. No one should worry about the Penguins being relocated. They’ve got a lease for another 20 years or so. But certainly fascinating news. We’ll see if it goes through.
Phaneuf hoping for Leafs reunion
Duthie: And finally, CJ, Dion Phaneuf officially announcing his retirement, dropping the puck Tuesday in Toronto. Could he end up back with the Leafs in some capacity?
Johnston: Well that’s certainly what Dion himself hopes happens here, James. And look, he’s got a young family, he’s based out of Los Angeles. He told me he wants to see his daughter grow up a little bit more before he jumps into his next career. But he has job shadowed in the past with Brendan Shanahan, the Leafs president, and he does envision a post- hockey playing career somewhere in a front office and he would like to work here in Toronto if that could be worked out at some point down the line.
Duthie: Insider Trading.