Monday, July 13 represented a big day in the NHL return-to-play plan, as formal training camps began — naturally there was plenty of news.
To little surprise, such training camp news also brought uncertainty. This post won’t hit on all 24 NHL teams involved in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but let’s take a look at some of the rumblings from around the league:
Blackhawks’ Crawford, other absences lead to speculation
At the moment, the NHL elects not to name players or teams while announcing positive COVID-19 tests.
The bright side of that is that players gain at least a modicum of privacy. The downside is that fans and others are left to speculate about the nature of absences. To some extent, this follows the NHL’s clear-as-mud transparency when it comes to injury updates already, only turned up to 11.
Rank Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford as one of the players people are speculating about during this first day of NHL training camps. If you’re looking for more from the Blackhawks on Crawford, you were largely out of luck.
“For now, he’s just unfit to play,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think the NHL has been pretty clear that’s going to be the policy going forward as far as how we’ll announce all injuries. So, that’s all I have for you.”
Blackhawks fans are probably used to uncertainty regarding Crawford, being that his career was threatened by concussion issues. Such issues, and Chicago’s mediocre overall play, might have pushed Crawford’s strong work under the radar. During the last three months of the truncated season, Crawford’s save percentage didn’t sink below a splendid .927. For a team as porous defensively as the Blackhawks, they must hope that Crawford will eventually be fit to play — particularly after trading Robin Lehner.
It would be a sad way for Crawford to end his Blackhawks career, too, as he’s a pending UFA.
Now, other goalies sat out day one of NHL training camps, too. Marc-Andre Fleury joined Crawford with that distinction. But while the Blackhawks shared few Crawford details, the Golden Knights deemed MAF’s absence a maintenance day.
Though not a comprehensive list, here are a few other notable absences from day one of NHL training camps:
- Predators star defenseman Roman Josi reportedly skated earlier in the day.
- Patric Hornqvist ranked among Penguins who didn’t participate on Monday. It may or may not be connected, but note that nine Penguins players were “voluntarily sidelined” following “secondary exposure” to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
- Nolan Patrick won’t suit up for the Flyers because of his migraine issues.
- Switching from players to coaches, 64-year-old Panthers assistant Mike Kitchen opted out of the return to play.
- Again, this isn’t comprehensive. Rotoworld’s NHL News section is a great source if you want to scour every name.
Noteworthy names attending NHL training camps on day one
Going over every single player who participated would be a fool’s errand. Consider a few names that stood out, though.
- After missing the last 12 games of 2019-20 with a shoulder injury, Mikko Rantanen was up-and-running for the Avalanche.
- It sounds like Dougie Hamilton isn’t all the way back to the Norris-level form he exhibited this season. Even so, the Hurricanes welcomed his return.
- As you may have heard, Max Domi and the Canadiens are taking a wait-and-see approach. That’s sensible with reports swirling about multiple positive tests.
- Cancer survivor Brian Boyle made his presence felt with the Panthers. All signs point to Anton Stralman staying involved, too.
Assorted bits, including Gritty
Now, for some quick random bits.
Matt Niskanen said it right:
“The world is pretty bonkers right now,” Niskanen said, via Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Nothing is normal … But as hockey players, we just want that (Cup) chance.”
Actually, (Niskanen’s … Flyers’ colleague?) Gritty also got it right:
.@28CGiroux on being welcomed back to the rink by @GrittyNHL this morning: "I wasn't sure when we were going to see him again but he wasted no time. He was ready. Probably the first one at the rink." pic.twitter.com/rUWpR6ZxZZ
— x-Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 13, 2020
The first one to the rink? Well, the name Gritty makes sense then, I guess.
If you’re looking for the best gesture of them all, it’s probably the Oilers’ tribute to Colby Cave.
A special message at @EdmontonOilers morning skate. 🧡💙
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 13, 2020
Although, the Maple Leafs also made quite a statement by wearing “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts as a group:
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 13, 2020
If news and other bits from day one of NHL training camps are any indication, there will be a lot of stories to sort through. At least some of them will involve Gritty, too, so that’s nice.
More on NHL return to play, CBA extension, COVID-19:
- Full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
- Hockey is back: NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement
- Salary cap to stay flat at $81.5 million
- Power rankings: training camp storylines
- Several players opt out of NHL return to play