Laviolette Latest To Find A Ride On NHL Coaching Carousel
Some players express reluctance about resuming the season, a look at some possible neutral-site host cities and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines,
LATEST ON THE NHL’S EFFORTS TO RESUME THE SEASON
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL is expected to extend its quarantine period from April 30 to May 15. He also said there will be a call today between the league and the NHL Players’ Association to discuss player concerns regarding a resumption of the season. Those issues include travel and quarantine issues for European players returning to North America, the potential period players could be separated from their families, and the expense of continuing the schedule in divisional host cities.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The state of Texas is reopening, but Stars general manager Jim Nill said he’ll await approval from the league before allowing his players to resume small-group training at the team’s facilities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some players, such as the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty, the Montreal Canadiens’ Phillip Danault, and the New York Islanders’ Ryan Pulock, expressed skepticism about returning to action or concern about lengthy family separations. Others, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jake Muzzin, said they’re looking forward to restarting the season.
Any plan to continue playing will require the NHLPA’s approval. While the concerns of some players are certainly justified, the possibility of larger escrow deductions from their salaries next season could tip the scales in the league’s favor.
If the NHL cancels the season, it will lose around $1.1 billion in hockey-related revenue. That reportedly means over 40 percent of the players’ salaries for 2020-21 will be clawed back. Completing this season would recoup between $400 million and $500 million, meaning next season’s escrow number would be around 20 percent. That’s still higher than the usual 12-to-15 percent escrow clawbacks, but more palatable than 40 percent.
Pierre LeBrun reports the league is also considering starting up the 2020-21 season in December if the end of the current season stretches into September or October. A December start also means a better chance of having fans back in the arenas again.
Bob McKenzie reports a decision on when to stage the 2020 NHL Draft could be made next week. He’s pessimistic that it could be held in June before the resumption of the season, citing the negative reaction to the idea around the league.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford expects the NHL will follow the National Football League’s lead in staging a virtual draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL canceled the remainder of the season and playoffs, it would make sense to hold the draft in June. The issues raised by staging the draft before resuming the season in July, such as sorting out the draft order and addressing conditional draft picks moved in trades earlier this season, would create unnecessary headaches and unpopular solutions.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/EDMONTON JOURNAL/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Tampa Bay, Edmonton, and Columbus are among the clubs under consideration to become divisional host cities if the NHL season resumes this summer.
OTTAWA SUN: Don’t expect Ottawa to be a neutral site location. A lack of suitable hotels and their proximity to the rink are among the issues.
SPORTSNET: The NHL is selling team-branded face coverings with the proceeds going to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada COVID-19 Response Funds.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 28, 2020
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SCORE: Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom will undergo his final treatments as he makes progress against Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. “He feels great, considering the condition he’s in. He’s such a great kid and he’s determined. His focus is to play as soon as possible,” said Flyers assistant general manager Brett Flahr.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Lindblom makes a full recovery and resumes his NHL career.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Recently retired NHL player Joel Ward hopes to become a coach with the San Jose Sharks. Ward said he’s chatted with management several times.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes Foundation donated $478,000 during the 2019-20 season, including cash grants, to 26 local nonprofits and youth hockey organizations in North Carolina.
Reaction to the Blackhawks firing president John McDonough, more on the league’s attempts to resume the season, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
BLACKHAWKS FIRE MCDONOUGH
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Chicago Blackhawks made a surprising move yesterday by firing John McDonough after 13 seasons as team president and CEO. Team chairman Rocky Wirtz issued a statement saying the move was based on the requirement for a “new mindset to successfully transition the organization to win both on and off the ice.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have declined since winning their last Stanley Cup in 2015, prompting speculation suggesting Wirtz could shake up the front office and coaching staff. He gave McDonough, general manager Stand Bowman, and head coach Jeremy Colliton a vote of confidence earlier this season, but it’s apparent he’s had time to reconsider during the ongoing pause to this NHL season.
It’ll be interesting to see if more changes are coming to the Blackhawks organization. This unexpected move sparked some to suggest Wirtz’s popularity among Chicago fans could change, while others wondered about the effect upon the futures of Bowman and Colliton.
LATEST ON THE NHL’S PLANS TO RESUME THE SCHEDULE
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is still determining if it’ll wait until it’s safe and permissible for all 31 teams to reopen practice facilities or if it’ll do so in waves. Sources indicate several teams are aiming to reopen their facilities for small-group practices by May 15, but that might not be possible in every jurisdiction.
Johnston also revealed possible timelines for what the schedule could look like in the coming months. May 15 to 31 would see informal, small-group skates, followed by training camps and exhibitions games in June. The remainder of the regular-season schedule and the playoffs would run from July 1 to Sept. 30. A compressed off-season calendar would run from Oct. 1 to mid-November, followed by training camps opening for 2020-21, with next season beginning in mid- to late-December.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That timeline isn’t carved in stone. The course of this pandemic will determine how that potential schedule plays out. League officials insist they’ll resume action only when it’s safe to do so.
ESPN.COM: Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon believes this season should be completed this summer assuming there’s sufficient testing for COVID-10. He also feels the 2020-21 season should start when fans are allowed to return to the arenas. The Hurricanes are among several clubs examining the economic impact of capping attendance at a lower capacity for next season.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell reports one of Canada’s leading experts on infectious diseases believes the NHL’s plan to resume play this summer could have legs if it works in concert with public health officials. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an associate professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto, believes the plan could work provided there’s a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases.
“It’s going to be a value judgment on behalf of many different groups,” said Bogoch. “This is truly shared decision-making. You can look at all the data and what the proposal is and at the end of the day those groups together will have to decide together, is it worth it, yes or no?”
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers reports player agents Kurt Overhardt and KO Sports associate Brian Schoelzel proposed a voluntary player exemption rule that would allow NHL teams to prevent their highest-paid player from counting towards the salary cap.
Overhardt believes this would leave more money for the player’s teammates, as well as allow clubs to sign more players to make their rosters more competitive. Clubs that don’t wish to use that exemption would receive luxury-tax funds paid by teams that do participate. Overhardt’s plan would have to be part of the next collective bargaining agreement once the current one expires in 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether that exemption is part of the next CBA remains to be seen. It could gain support among NHL teams if the COVID-19 pandemic creates an adverse, long-term effect upon hockey-related revenue.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league intends to decide on when they’ll stage the 2020 Draft “relatively soon.” There’s talk the draft could be held in June before the regular season resumes in July.
Garrioch also reports the American Hockey League could announce the cancelation of the remainder of its season by May 8.
IN OTHER NEWS…
MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and Philadelphia Flyers are assisting General Motors’ efforts to increase mask production for frontline works battling the coronavirus pandemic.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin made a sizable, unspecified donation to the Ronald McDonald House of Pittsburgh on Monday.
NBC SPORTS: The San Jose Sharks unveiled a plan to provide grants to 1,800 part-time workers at the team’s arena and practice facility who are unable to work because of the pandemic.
TSN: Former NHL forward Joel Ward announced his retirement after 11 NHL seasons with the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks. In 726 games, Ward tallied 133 goals and 304 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ward was an undrafted player from the Canadian college ranks who played his way into the big league. Best wishes to the former UPEI Panther in his future endeavors.
No decision yet on the fate of the 2020 regular season and playoffs, more speculation over the format of the 2020 post-season, interim coaches facing an uncertain future, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: The NHL has not yet decided whether the remainder of the 2019-20 season will be played, or what format the 2020 playoffs might take. In a press release, the league indicated the resumption of play and format would depend upon what transpires between now and when it is permitted to resume play.
The league reiterated it doesn’t anticipate any resumption that would affect its ability to stage the 2020-21 season in its entirety. It also stated it was premature to assume games would be closed to the public whenever the schedule recommences.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the league told the board of governors it is too soon to determine when the schedule will resume, adding it is considering every option. Sources said some team executives prefer the usual 16-team playoff field, while others like an expanded one. A larger playoff format could also affect the draft lottery.
LeBrun speculates the likely postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics (July 24 to Aug. 6) could provide the league more flexibility to return to action this summer. He also said he couldn’t recall a higher level of cooperation between the league and the NHL Players Association than he’s seen right now, but that collaboration could be tested as both sides consider difficult financial decisions that affect both sides.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams on the playoff bubble would prefer an expanded playoff format if the regular season cannot be staged. Whatever that might look like remains to be seen. It will depend upon when they’re approved to resume by health officials in Canada and the United States.
NBC Sports provides national US TV coverage of the NHL. They’re also scheduled to cover the Tokyo Olympics. Postponing the Olympics ensures no broadcast scheduling conflict for the league.
It’s in the best interest of the league and the PA to cooperate during this crisis. They cannot allow petty squabbles of the past to derail efforts to find a workable solution to the anticipated decline in hockey-related revenue brought about by this pandemic. If they can successfully navigate through this, the stage could be set for a rancor-free extension of the current collective bargaining agreement.
STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon observes the pause in the NHL schedule leaves the league’s interim coaches in limbo. They include the Calgary Flames’ Geoff Ward, the Dallas Stars’ Rick Bowness, the San Jose Sharks’ Bob Boughner, the New Jersey Devils’ Alain Nasreddine, and the Minnesota Wild’s Dean Evason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nasreddine could face the most uncertain future. He was hired by Ray Shero, who lost his job a month later. There’s talk the Devils could replace interim GM Tom Fitzgerald. If so, that person could bring in his own bench boss.
TSN: Mark Master reports ice makers in the 31 NHL arenas will face a daunting challenge if the league returns to action this summer.
THE SCORE: The 2019-20 Canadian Hockey League playoffs and the 2020 Memorial Cup have been canceled. It’s the first time in the Cup’s 102-year history that it won’t be awarded to Canada’s top junior team.