There will be no goalies wearing toques and no hardest shot contest next season. Nor will there be goals scored amidst the snowflakes or disinterested three-on-three games between the divisions. We’re not going to know who the fastest skater in the NHL is or get to watch someone make a long walk of shame. Most unfortunately, there will not be 48 hours of online hand-wringing about why <insert player from your favorite team> was snubbed from a glorified game of shinny. On Thursday, the NHL announced that they were postponing both the Winter Classic (scheduled for January 1st in Minnesota) and the All-Star Weekend (scheduled for January 29-30 in Sunrise).
It’s not a surprise that the All-Star festivities were nixed. Once it became apparent that the 2020-21 season wasn’t going to start on time and the schedule was going to be compressed the mid-winter gala was one of the first things on the chopping block. There was still a possibility that the Winter Classic may still happen (and in my opinion would have been a nice way to kick off the season) but the uncertainty in regards to fan attendance made that a no-go.
Both events are logistical nightmares that normally involve multiple ancillary events surrounding the games. They’re also both highly reliant on fan attendance. If fans aren’t allowed in the building (or stadium) what’s the point of even having the events?
Is it a bad thing that both events were effectively cancelled by the league? In the larger scheme of things - yes, since it’s yet another indication that the effects of the novel coronavirus is still wreaking havoc on the sports world. In the more micro focused world of the NHL - maybe not.
The 2021 Winter Classic was going to be the 31st outdoor game in the NHL since 2003. That’s quite a lot, some may even say too many. While it’s always fun for the city hosting the event, on a larger scale the shine is off the apple a bit. The hockey is usually ok at best, the threat of injury is greater, the saccharine stories of these wonderful players reminiscing about childhood games of pick-up hockey on the pond are repetitive, and in the end it’s just another two points in the middle of a long season.
As for the All-Star game, well, that’s another set of issues. Again, for the host city it’s usually a good time, but for the most part the game is ornamental. Many of the players don’t want to be there (they’d rather take the four or five days off) and the games are barely watchable despite the tweaks the league has added over the years. Since the ratings are usually nothing to write home about there probably wasn’t much blowback from their broadcast partners in regards to the cancellation.
So, while I’ll miss writing about why it’s a travesty that <insert Lightning player> was left off of the All-Star game, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Of course, the league could always have a ceremonial All-Star vote midway through next season just so that we don’t miss out on all of the fun.
Despite the postponement of two of their marquee events the league hasn’t ruled out trying to complete a full 82-game season starting on January 1st. Got to love their optimism.
Nothing much has happened in the Lightning world over the last couple of days, but they did bid adieu to an integral member of the organization on Thursday.
Please don't make us give him back, @seguidedogs— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 22, 2020
We've had the time of our lives with you, @boltspup! We know you're going to go on to do great things and help a lot of people pic.twitter.com/AbuVTWPsQ7
Best of luck to you Bolt, you had a heck of a run.
NHL.com posted their first “Super 16” ranking following the draft and the opening of free agency. Vegas moved up to the third spot behind Colorado. The Lightning stand alone at the top of the rankings. Cool. Will they still be there when the dust settles in regards to their salary cap woes? Only time will tell.
Corey Pronman over at The Athletic rolled out another rankings post. This time it’s the best players that are under 23. If you don’t subscribe I’ll save you the hassle - Mikhail Sergachev is the only Lightning player to make the list (he ranked 22nd). Based on Pronman’s previous rankings of the prospects in the Tampa Bay organization it’s not a huge surprise. The only player that I might be willing to argue should have been included is Cal Foote.
Over at Bleacher Report they tried to think of a couple of landing spots should Steven Stamkos waive his NMC (not likely). It’s kind of hard to find a spot for his $8.5 million cap hit. Of their selections my thoughts are:
Avalanche: intriguing - but it would strap them financially following this year.
Sabres: hilarious - especially if he led them into the playoffs and further along than the Leafs
Rangers/Leafs: - bad fit - Stamkos has never given the indication he wants to play in a big city with overbearing media attention.
Golden Knights: too late - if they hadn’t signed Pietrangelo then maybe. No way they can afford him now and the Lightning aren’t looking to take salary back in any move they make.
Around the sport
There were a couple of new contracts announced yesterday as teams avoided the arduous process of arbitration with some of their young players. Ottawa locked up Connor Brown for three years at $3.6 million per.
Once considered an important part of the Canuck future, Jake Virtanen has been shunted aside by a few other prospects in the Vancouver system. At 24-years-old he still has the chance to take his game to the next level and the Canucks had enough faith in him to sign him to a two-year contract worth $2.55 million per year.
Lightning fans may remember seeing Dennis Gurianov in the Stanley Cup Final. While the rookie didn’t have a huge impact in that series, he did have a breakout performance in the earlier rounds. The Stars locked up the RFA for two more years at $2.55 million per.
The PWHPA received the largest corporate financial support in the organization’s history as Secret Deodorant committed $1 million on Thursday. The funding will fuel cash prizes, six Showcase events, and the Secret Cup.
Enjoy the weekend. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Go Rays.