Canucks On The Brink Of Collapse
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Pierre-Luc Dubois benched, an update on the four Capitals sidelined under COVID-19 protocols, and a lengthy list of injuries in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tyler Toffoli scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 in the second game of their three-game series. With the score tied 2-2 following the first period, the Canadiens blew the game open with four unanswered second-period goals.
Montreal winger Joel Armia also scored twice but suffered a concussion late in the third period from a blindside hit by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Habs forward Paul Byron also left in the third after being struck in the leg by a shot from teammate Shea Weber. Canucks defensemen Travis Hamonic and Alexander Edler missed the game with upper-body injuries, while blueliner Jalen Chatfield suffered a first-period upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli now has five goals in two games against his former club this season. It’s uncertain if Myers will receive supplemental discipline for his cheap shot on Armia. The Canadiens and Canucks will play the final game of this series on Saturday, with the Habs unbeaten in regulation (3-0-2) thus far.
Jake DeBrusk tallied the only goal in a shootout to give the Boston Bruins a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Nick Ritchie had a goal and an assist while David Krejci collected two assists. James van Riemsdyk tallied twice and Jakub Voracek collected three assists for the Flyers, who gave up 43 shots in this contest. The Flyers played without forward Morgan Frost (dislocated shoulder, injured reserve) and defenseman Philippe Myers (fractured rib, week-to-week).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a big win for the Bruins, who entered this game sitting dead-last in goals for per game (1.00). A porous defense saw the Flyers blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads in this game. The injuries are piling up for the Flyers, who were also playing without Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their third straight win by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on an overtime goal by Brayden Point. Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched for almost the entire game, seeing less than four minutes of ice time in the first period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts victory was overshadowed by Dubois’ benching. This is ramping up speculation over the 22-year-old center’s future with the Blue Jackets and his relationship with head coach John Tortorella. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle tallied twice in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Isles center Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists. Josh Bailey returned to the Isles lineup after spending one day on the club’s COVID-19 absence list. The Devils were without starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who was placed on the club’s COVID list, though that doesn’t mean he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets over the Ottawa Senators 4-1. The Jets took control of the game with three unanswered second-period goals. Jets winger Patrik Laine missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.
The Los Angeles Kings got their first win of the season by doubling up the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. The Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit with Adrian Kempe netting the game-winner in the third period. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and an assist for the Avs.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for COVID-19. Samsonov, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol-related absence list on Wednesday. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov will miss at least four games while Samsonov could be sidelined longer. It remains to be seen if the other three tested positive.
Samsonov’s positive test triggered contact testing within the Capitals dressing room, leading to the NHL discovering the four players spent time socializing in the team hotel without facial coverings on multiple occasions. The league fined the Capitals $100K.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits and fans questioned the NHL’s protocols when this story broke on Wednesday. The bottom line is the Capitals, and every other team in the league knew what the protocols were before this season started. The NHLPA voted for them. Every player had the opportunity to opt-out of playing this season. The players involved in this incident broke those rules and must now suffer the consequences.
The NHL’s COVID protocols were based on CDC and Health Canada guidelines enabling the 31 NHL teams to stage this season in their home arenas. They must also follow local guidelines.
Those rules have had an effect upon this season. A ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-US border has limited Canadian teams to playing among themselves during the regular season. The San Jose Sharks started this season on the road because Santa Clara County has prohibited all sports activities due to high local COVID levels.
The NHL has already postponed games involving the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes because of COVID outbreaks. They cannot risk further spread jeopardizing the season because some players won’t adhere to the rules.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola will each be sidelined several weeks with undisclosed injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford shopping for help. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson is sidelined for six weeks with an oblique muscle injury.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman John Klingberg (medical reasons) is questionable for his club’s season-opener on Friday against the Nashville Predators.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews left practice early yesterday as he wasn’t feeling great, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. His status will be updated today. Forward Joe Thornton is expected to miss some games with an upper-body injury.
CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Dillon Dube is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
WGR550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton will miss at least two games with a head injury. Sabres starter Linus Ullmark revealed he missed Monday’s game against Philadelphia as he was grieving the death of his father in Sweden. Ullmark returned to practice and is slated to travel with the club for their upcoming two-game series against Washington.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ullmark during this difficult time.
More details on the plans to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13, the Flyers sign Philippe Myers, the Panthers’ expand their goalie coaching staff, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
MORE DETAILS EMERGE REGARDING 2020-21 NHL SEASON PLANS
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL understands that COVID-19 could affect the 2020-21 schedule. They are working on some empty days within the schedule to allow postponed games to be played.
LeBrun also indicates the league cannot go into a shortened season during a pandemic with the same rules governing roster limits. A proposal has been made to the NHLPA for expanded rosters indicating how many players each club can carry and “taxi squads”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a taxi squad is a group of players under contract with a team who practice with the club but aren’t on the roster. They are allowed to join the team if injuries occur. Taxi squads would address the difficulties of attempting to call up players from the minors during the pandemic.
The NHLPA held a conference call yesterday to bring the 31 player reps up to speed on the latest development. A conference call with the NHL Board of Governors is slated for today.
Darren Dreger reports there will be an opt-out option for players unwilling to participate in the coming season due to COVID-19. Mandatory vaccinations have also been discussed and agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA.
Frank Seravalli reports the Canadian teams that lack AHL affiliates in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton) will use the taxi squad system to keep some players stashed in their home cities. The other four clubs plan to play their AHL affiliates in an all-Canadian division.
He also reports there won’t be any compliance buyouts to allow teams to garner cap relief by shedding salary without penalty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Normal buyouts for players 26-and-older count against the salary cap as two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining term of the contract and one-third over twice the remaining term for players 25-and-younger.
Seravalli indicates local health authorities will play a role in determining if certain teams, such as the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets, will be allowed to open the season in their home arenas.
It will take a two-thirds majority of the NHL board of governors to approve the plan for this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports indicated some owners would prefer not playing this season if they don’t get some financial relief to offset some of their losses from a shortened schedule. Speculation suggests they number around a half-dozen, which wouldn’t be sufficient to vote down the plan for this season.
The NHL and the NHLPA agreed to abide by the rules of the CBA, meaning the league has backed off from its request for $300 million in higher escrow and salary deferral from the players. The NHL might have to consider other options, such as taking out loans, to address that financial need for some of its unhappy owners.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan report the majority of the owners and players prefer a baseball-style three-game series. Hybrid bubbles or hub cities are a possibility to start the season, where teams would travel and play up to 10 games in two weeks and return home for a week.
Those hubs would be similar to those in Edmonton and Toronto during the playoffs but less strict. New Jersey, Columbus and Las Vegas are under consideration as those arenas have just one tenant, two sheets of ice and suitable nearby accommodation.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports clauses in television contracts requiring a certain number of games and/or weeks to fulfill obligations are a major factor in the sudden rush to start the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fulfilling those obligations will also help the league in its quest for a more lucrative US national broadcasting deal following this season.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW’s Adrian Dater tweets a league source claims training camp will open on Jan. 3 with the regular season opening on Jan. 13. “It’s not official yet, but this is what the players are hearing/being told.”
TORONTO SUN: Former Sportsnet analyst John Shannon told Lance Hornby a Canadian division will provide unique challenges for travel and broadcasting games.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens sports science and performance director Pierre Allard is telling his players to ensure they’re ready for the upcoming season. The focus is on ensuring they’re in good health and condition to avoid injury during a compressed schedule.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a concern undoubtedly shared by the other NHL clubs based on reports in recent weeks of players engaged in voluntary workouts and off-ice training to prepare for the coming season.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers announced Philippe Myers signed a three-year, $7.65 million contract. The 23-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That $2.55 million annual average value is a very affordable deal for the Flyers. Myers is expected to skate alongside Ivan Provorov on their top defense pairing. If he thrives in that role he’ll be in line for a more lucrative long-term contract in three year’s time.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers hired Francois Allaire as a goaltending consultant. He’ll be reunited with former pupil Roberto Luongo, who’s now a special advisor to general manager Bill Zito.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Former Pittsburgh Penguins minor-league assistant coach Jarrod Skalde has accused the club of violating whistleblower laws after he reported a superior for sexually assaulting his wife. The lawsuit claims then-Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin informed Skalde the superior was being terminated from his position but instructed him the reasons had to be kept quiet and not be let out. Guerin, now GM of the Minnesota Wild, denies the allegation.
NHL, NHLPA target 56-game schedule starting Jan. 13, agree not to change the economic framework of CBA extension. Details and more in the morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET/TSN: Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger reported the NHL and NHLPA continue discussions aimed at a 56-game schedule beginning Jan. 13. Friedman indicates that includes “Training camps, opt-outs, testing, the schedule, the playoffs, re-alignment, you name it.”
Friedman also reports last season’s non-playoff clubs would begin training camp on Dec. 28 while the other 24 clubs begin on Jan. 1. It appears there won’t be any exhibition games. He also believes a short-term “hub plan” is being worked on but the preference remains for all teams playing in their home arenas. A potential problem is staging training camps in cities with strict COVID-19 restrictions such as Montreal, San Jose and Winnipeg.
Pierre LeBrun reports the plan will require approval from the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA membership. Friedman said there’s a desire to have it ready for approval by the end of this week.
The stalemate between the NHL and NHLPA over the league’s requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates has ended with both sides agreeing the economic framework of the CBA won’t be changed.
Friedman and Dreger reported the players refused to consider any changes to escrow. On Sunday, they proposed to defer additional monies but wanted a significant concession from the league. Friedman reports one of their suggestions was a slight increase to the salary cap to put more money into the system. While that would’ve affected how much the players would have to give back to maintain the 50-50 revenue split, Friedman said the escrow caps in place weren’t a concern to the current group of players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dispute over the escrow and deferral rates was a significant obstacle. The players’ refusal to budge appears to have forced the league to consider other options to make up a potential revenue shortfall.
A cap on escrow was what the players wanted and they were justified in insisting the league abide by the agreement. They could end up owing the league much more in escrow debt toward the end of the CBA extension but they seem willing to accept that potential consequence.
Both sides want to stage a season because there’s a lot at stake here. They cannot afford not to play when other major pro leagues are carrying on with their respective schedules. There are broadcasting and advertising contracts to be honored and the potential for a lucrative new US TV deal at the end of this season.
Some readers suggested the league could afford to shut down this season because of the three lockouts since 1994-95. The difference is league headquarters and the team owners were financially prepared for work stoppages arising from labor disputes with the NHLPA. They weren’t ready for the effects of a pandemic, plus they would face a strong legal challenge from the PA.
So how will the NHL find the $300 million they tried to squeeze from the players to stage this season? ESPN.com’s Emily Kaplan reports sources are saying the league is looking into a loan plan similar to that used by the NBA to provide its teams with cash to protect their finances ahead of this season.
That Jan. 13 start date could be flexible. Prior to last night’s reports, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Fox Business the season could open on Jan. 15 with the possibility it might have to slide by a week or two. Nevertheless, Foley is confident his club will be playing this season at their home arena, though it could be without fans in attendance.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers are close to agreeing to a contract with Philippe Myers. “Could happen this week.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Myers is a restricted free agent coming out of his entry-level contract. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a bridge contract or a long-term deal. We can probably expect signings of RFAs and unrestricted free agents will pick up once the Jan. 13 start date for this season is formally approved.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning hired Rob Zettler to replace departed assistant coach Todd Richards. Zettler, a former NHL defenseman, is also the former head coach of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He worked as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 2017 to 2019.
IIHF.COM: International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel and general secretary Horst Lichtner have tested positive for COVID-19. This will not affect the IIHF’s preparations for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
SPORTSNET: The entire Northeast Division of the ECHL plus the Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals have suspended play for the 2020-21 season under the league’s COVID-19 policy. The teams intend to return in 2021-22. Most are minor-league affiliates for several NHL clubs.
TORONTO STAR: A mint condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky card could become hockey’s first $1 million collectible card.
The Lightning crushed the Bruins, the Flyers edge the Islanders in overtime, and the Avalanche get a big win over the Stars. Meanwhile, the NHL faces criticism over its response to protests over the Jacob Blake shooting. The latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the Boston Bruins 7-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their second-round series. Nikita Kucherov scored a goal and set up three others while Alex Killorn tallied twice and added an assist. The Bolts chased Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak from the game after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. His replacement, rookie Dan Vladar, didn’t fare any better, allowing three goals on 15 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game was over in the second period as the Lightning scored four goals to take a 6-1 lead by period’s end. The Bruins were undisciplined and the Bolts made them pay with three power-play goals.
Philippe Myers scored in overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Islanders 4-3 to tie their series at a game apiece. Kevin Hayes scored twice for the Flyers, who blew a 3-0 lead as the Isles battled back to tie the game after replacing goalie Semyon Varlamov with backup Thomas Greiss.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 26, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers’ top forwards played significant roles in this game, with Hayes scoring twice, Sean Couturier potting his first of the playoffs and assisting on Myers’ game-winner, while Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny each collected an assist. Nevertheless, the Flyers also learned a three-goal lead isn’t safe against the determined Islanders.
The Colorado Avalanche scored three unanswered third-period goals to defeat the Dallas Stars 6-4 in Game 3 of their second-round series. The Stars lead the series two games to one and were on the verge of taking a 3-0 series lead after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead before the Avs’ staged their comeback. Nazem Kadri netted the winning goal, Cale Makar collected three assists, and Nathan MacKinnon added two helpers. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin tallied for the Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining contest that see-sawed back and forth before the Avs rallied for the win. It wasn’t a shining moment for the goalies, as Colorado’s Pavel Francouz and Dallas’ Anton Khudobin looked shaky in this match.
SPORTSNET: The NHL opted not to postpone Wednesday’s games in the wake of the NBA’s decision to delay its games after players from several of its teams boycotted games in protest over the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The NHL instead staged a moment of reflection before the Tampa/Boston and Colorado/Dallas games.
The NHL’s decision prompted criticism from Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who are among the members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance fighting racial injustice. Dumba called the move “disheartening” while Kane felt it was disappointing. Both men felt the NHL should do more to acknowledge the situation.
CBC SPORTS: Hockey analyst Kelly Hrudey shared those sentiments, saying he felt the NHL should’ve postponed those games to show support for their NBA peers and the Black Lives Matter movement. He felt the league was missing out on important discussions about racial injustice.
ESPN.COM: Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning players said they learned about the NBA players boycott just before their game and didn’t have sufficient time to discuss the matter.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara voiced his support for his peers in other sports who sat out yesterday’s games. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he would’ve supported his players had they opted not to play. Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars and Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche also voiced support, adding boycotting games isn’t the only way to back the cause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what transpires for today’s NHL games between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders and the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks. The league could be forced to postpone those games if players from those teams opt not to participate in support of their NBA peers.
THE SCORE: Sharks captain Logan Couture issued an apology after a tweet he made regarding American politics went viral. Couture claimed he was sucker-punched in Toronto after talking about voting for the Republican Party and mentioning US President Donald Trump. He added he didn’t explicitly say he’d vote for Trump but would vote Republican if he was an American citizen. Couture subsequently deleted those tweets after facing considerable criticism. The Sharks issued a statement condemning the use of violence toward Couture.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault issued an apology for lashing out at several fans on Instagram who criticized his play during his club’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko will undergo a third surgery on his left shoulder and will be sidelined for five months. Meanwhile, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong indicated one-fifth of his squad tested positive for COVID-19 at some point before they departed for Edmonton on July 19. None of those players were asymptomatic, but their fitness levels were affected because they couldn’t train while under quarantine.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Arizona Coyotes will forfeit its second-round pick in 2020 and its first-round pick in 2021 as punishment for violating the NHL’s combine scouting policy. The league prohibits teams from testing prospects’ fitness before its’ annual draft combine.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Claude Julien expects to return behind the Canadiens bench whenever next season begins. The Habs coach had to leave his club during their first-round series against Philadelphia after experiencing chest pains. He had a stent implanted in one of his arteries and is expected to make a full recovery.
NHL.COM: Defenseman Mike Green announced his retirement after 15 seasons with the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Edmonton Oilers. He netted 501 points in 880 career NHL games, as well as 37 points in 76 playoff contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Green’s best years were with the Capitals, including back-to-back 70-plus point campaigns in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He was a First Team All-Star and a finalist for the Norris Trophy in both those seasons. Injuries, however, would hamper his performance over the remainder of his career. Best wishes to Green and his family in their future endeavors.
The Stars and Islanders advance to the second round, Matt Niskanen gets a one-game suspension for a cross-check that fractured Brendan Gallagher’s jaw and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Denis Gurianov scored four times as the Dallas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit with seven unanswered goals to crush the Calgary Flames 7-3, winning their opening-round series four games to two. Five of those goals came in the second period. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen had a goal and three assists while teammate Joe Pavelski tallied one goal and set up two others.
— Spector’s Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) August 21, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved victory for the Stars in this game and in this series. They’ll face the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. I was very impressed with Heiskanen’s performance in this series. The 21-year-old NHL sophomore is rapidly blossoming into an elite defenseman. Pavelski, meanwhile, continues to prove at 36 he’s still a reliable postseason performer. As for the Flames, some big changes could be coming after this meltdown.
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, including the game-winner, as the New York Islanders blanked the Washington Capitals 4-0 to take their first-round series four games to one. Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves for the shutout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A dominant performance by the Islanders, shutting down the league’s second-best offensive team. It was a master class by Isles bench boss Barry Trotz as he outcoached the Capitals’ Todd Reirden in this series. Two years following the Caps’ Stanley Cup championship, some changes could be in store for the roster and behind the bench.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The NHL Department of Player Safety handed a one-game suspension to Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen for cross-checking Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher in the face during Game 5 of their first-round series.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Niskanen’s cross-check fractured Gallagher’s jaw, sidelining the Canadiens winger for the remainder of this series and possibly longer should the Habs advance to the second round.
CBS SPORTS: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers suffered a slightly separated shoulder. He’ll be sidelined for the remainder of the Canucks’ series with the St. Louis Blues. Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli (lower-body injury) could be in the lineup for Game 6 tonight.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Former NHL coach Bill Peters has tested positive for COVID-19. The head coach of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Peters is reportedly asymptomatic.