What impact will the Capitals COVID-19 news have on the team as a whole? What would happen if a team had too many games cancelled, and wouldn't be able to finish the complete 56 game schedule? Are NHL coaches still working with reduced pay? TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun, Darren Dreger and Frank Seravalli discuss this and more.
James Duthie: Here, our triumvirate of Insiders are: Pierre LeBrun, Frank Seravalli, and Darren Dreger. So the Washington Capitals lose four key players including Alexander Ovechkin due to COVID protocols. Ovi's wife is not happy, posting on Instagram. What's the latest on the circumstances surrounding this, Pierre?
Pierre LeBrun: Those four players in question are gone at least four games, that's what Peter Laviolette, the head coach of the Caps, told the media on Thursday. But that's really just the minimum because at this point you have to see how the testing goes for the players involved over the next 10 days. One of those four players has tested positive and now it's a question of the other three players in the protocol and you go from there.
I can tell you this, this situation, the quality of players involved, the fine to the team. It has served as a wake-up call around the National Hockey League in terms of people realizing how serious the NHL is and everyone following these protocols. For those complaining how silly it may be that four players can't get into a hotel room when they're all sitting on the bench together without a mask. One doesn't have to do with the other. These are the protocols. It's what the players signed off on when they agreed to play this year and if they didn't want to play, they could've opted out.
Duthie: Message sent. At the height of the pandemic last year, many teams reduced payment for staff, including coaching staff. Frank, now that they're back to playing full time, are some coaches still not getting paid in full?
Frank Seravalli: That’s right, James. By our count, there are seven NHL coaching staffs who are not receiving their full pay, even though the season has started. There’s some nuance to this. A team like the Edmonton Oilers, for instance, their three highest-paid coaches have agreed to a 25 per cent salary deferral for this season which will be eventually repaid once fans can get back in arenas and revenues can normalize a bit. Look, there’s a lot of unhappy coaches around the league - both coaches whose pay has been cut, and coaches at full pay - they’d like to see a level playing field. But to this point, there has not been a formal complaint levied to the NHL to our knowledge and my guess, James, is even if there was - it’s not something the NHL would want to dip their toe into the water on given the fact that these are individually negotiated employment contracts between coach and team. So we’ll see where this goes, but there’s certainly some unhappy coaches out there.
Duthie: As you can see by this segment, COVID is still front and centre as we try to navigate our way through this season. So it's nice to see some normalcy, Dregs, in teams already looking to fill holes. This doesn't surprise us, Jimmy Rutherford does this early, looking to make a deal already?
Darren Dreger: He is. He's looking for a defenceman and part of that is through urgency and necessity and the fact he's already experienced injuries to the Pittsburgh Penguins blueline. But you're right, Jimmy Rutherford historically, traditionally, has always tried to get his shopping out of the way early. He's in the market for the best available defenceman but, in reality, he knows that he's going to have to settle for a third-pairing defenceman. He's definitely in the market looking for some help.
Duthie: Trade talk is always more fun than cancelled games and such but it's part of our reality with Carolina losing three. Pierre, what would happen if a team has too many games postponed and can't possibly get to 56 games at the end of the year?
LeBrun: James, your voice is the one of hockey fans around the world. I cannot tell you how many times I get asked that on Twitter. The reality is, the NHL at this point, has not made a determination on that scenario. Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner, told me on Thursday that he expects all 31 teams to play 56 games. Until they get, at a point later in the year, where it sounds like there's evidence that may not happen then they'll look at all their options and then make a determination. They don't want to make one on a hypothetical. So for now, even though it's obvious that they would have to go on points percentage, the league is not ready to commit to that or announce that.
Duthie: We know the severe financial implications for the NHL, which is a wealthy league. What about a league like the American Hockey League, Dregs, which is slated to open up February 5?
Dreger: Well for the Canadian teams it's a mammoth expense. They're scheduled to play 36 games. Let's be more specific and look at the Manitoba Moose. That team is going to travel extensively. They've got two major trips of 17 days in the East, nine games per. I mean, testing alone you're reaching up to six figures. In charter flights in around $50,000-to-60,000. Then because the Canadian teams can't cross the border, the players can't cross the border. They can't use their normal feeder leagues like the East Coast League so the Canadian teams are going to have to bolster their rosters with an extra four or five players. It's essential but it's all part of the development with the NHL.
Duthie: Those few extra jobs for guys. One little positive in a sea of negatives.