The NHL really needs to be questioned and to answer what kind of product they are offering fans right now. It’s not just the 60 players in the COVID protocol at the moment. It is the fact that the league makes no exception to the salary cap for teams that have been deprived of a portion of their roster due to COVID. Which has left too many teams having to skate short of a normal player fill due to the amount of players they have to do without due to positive tests and the inability to replace them from their minor league teams.
The Bruins had 17 skaters (instead of the usual 18) last night, and not for the first time. The Hurricanes had 16 as well as the Panthers and Avalanche. The Flames couldn’t even play. This isn’t even sticking to a schedule. It’s not really real.
The logical step here is to pause the season, even for just a week or two, to see how all these positive tests turn out, to see if anyone really gets sick, and to allow players to clarify protocols by eliminating the possibility that can spread to multiple teammates and staff.
But the NHL won’t get to that step without some sort of disaster, it seems. Games during the holidays are among the busiest in many markets. They’ll get that money after losing it last year.
If the league doesn’t go on hiatus, and it has an Olympic hiatus that it almost certainly won’t use to make up matches, then allowing teams to put at least one full team on the ice doesn’t seem like a huge step.
Perhaps they are concerned about the system at play, but it is difficult to see how this could happen. Teams have been understaffed in past seasons thanks to cap constraints, but this is due to poor management. This is life in a pandemic, and if the NHL is going to insist on plowing profits, above all, it needs to change the rules so that teams can at least put something close to a finished product out there. Asking fans to watch it isn’t fair to anyone.