NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 29, 2021
The NHL returns to action from its COVID-extended holiday break while Brad Marchand and Vladimir Tarasenko express their unhappiness over the league’s withdrawal from the 2022 Winter Olympics. Details & more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The San Jose Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 8-7 in the highest-scoring game of 2021-22. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl scored in the shootout to give the Sharks the win. Couture, Timo Meier and Alexander Barbanov each had a goal and an assist for the Sharks while teammate Brent Burns was held scoreless in his 1,200th career NHL game. Phil Kessel and Lawson Crouse each had four points for the Coyotes.
Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and added an assist as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3. Both clubs combined for four goals in 76 seconds in the first period with the Golden Knights jumping to a 3-1 lead. Adrian Kempe had a goal and an assist for the Kings.
The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 4-3 deficit to nip the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on an overtime goal by Ondrej Palat. Corey Perry scored with 20 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra frame. Lightning forward Braydon Point finished with two goals and an assist in his first game since being sidelined for 14 games by an upper-body injury. Canadiens defenseman Kale Clague and forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard each tallied their first career NHL goals.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Brad Marchand took to Twitter to once again condemn the NHL’s decision to withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics. He noted the recent mutually-agreed change to the collective bargaining agreement allowing NHL teams to use taxi squads to maintain their rosters and not miss any games or lose money due to postponements.
Marchand wondered why taxi squads couldn’t be used to allow players to participate in the Olympics. “please tell me that’s not bullshit,” he tweeted, calling for the league to allow the players to make the choice.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko also expressed his unhappiness over the league’s decision. “I think every Russian has a dream to play for the national team,” he said. “It’s very bad they took it away from us, I think it’s unfair. They give each player a choice, but we don’t have a choice at the end. So I think it’s very bad from them.”
Tarasenko indicated he read Marchand’s interview on Monday and agreed with the Bruins winger. “So with all the restrictions, all the rules, I don’t really understand the point when people are deciding for you.” He added he would’ve participated in the Beijing Games if given the choice. “I think you’d be surprised how many people would choose to go,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand the frustration felt by Marchand and Tarasenko and sympathize with having this opportunity to participate in the Winter Olympics taken away from them. Given their ages, this was likely the only opportunity for both players to represent their countries on the Olympic stage.
However, the NHL didn’t arbitrarily decide to screw over the players. The CBA allows the league to withdraw from the Winter Olympics before Jan. 10 if participation would jeopardize the completion of the 2021-22 schedule in a timely manner. This was mutually agreed upon by the league and the PA as per the CBA. The players should know this. If they don’t, that’s the fault of their PA leadership, not the league.
It’s well known NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league board of governors (team owners) don’t like Olympic participation because there’s no money in it for them. Given their choice, they’d never take part in the Winter Games ever again. Nevertheless, they agreed to send players to the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics as part of their concessions to get the players to sign off on the CBA extension last year.
Up until roughly two weeks ago, the NHL was going to leave Olympic participation up to the players. The only reason they took their current action (in conjunction with the PA) was the latest COVID-19 outbreak led to multiple game postponements that threatened to derail the season.
Yes, the league is concerned about hockey-related revenue. So should the players. Another shortened season means the salary cap remains flattened beyond 2024, meaning less money to go around for players in line for new contracts in two years’ time. That also means it will take longer for the players to pay back the debt they owe to the owners because their share of HRR in 2020 exceeded that of the owners’ share.
Speaking of postponed games, the total number yesterday reached 80 with 10 more games put on hold. Nine of them were upcoming games in Canada due to limits on large gatherings in Canadian NHL cities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was media speculation yesterday suggesting the league could soon announce some Canadian teams could end up playing home games scheduled for January on the road until those restrictions are eased or lifted. That’s because playing those games with limited attendance or no fans in the stands will adversely affect HRR for this season.
SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and New York Islanders center Brock Nelson were the latest notable NHL players placed on the COVID protocol list yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild were hoping to avoid an outbreak with their Jan. 1 Winter Classic game against the St. Louis Blues at Target Field fast approaching. Brodin is the only member of the wild (thus far) to test positive.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have recalled goaltender Matt Murray from a month-long stint with their AHL affiliate in Belleville.
CBS SPORTS: The Vegas Golden Knights placed defenseman Alec Martinez (facial injury) on long-term injury reserve. He’s been sidelined since Nov. 11.