Calgary hockey fans shouldn’t expect to read about any Flames players getting Covid-19.
That’s not to say none of them have tested positive for it, or will do so moving forward.
However, league protocols require GM Brad Treliving and all other officials around the league to direct inquiries about testing and positive results to the league.
“We can’t say anything now,” said Treliving of the policy tying his hands.
“I can’t even come to you and say, ‘all the testing we’ve done, we’ve had no positive tests.’ A few weeks ago they said the league will send out all that information on a weekly basis.”
Indeed, the league has been sending out a weekly release, which showed on Monday that 23 NHLers had tested positive since teams started gathering as part of Phase 2. Prior to that, the league was aware of 12 positive tests, bringing the total to 35.
However, the league will not give details such as player names or the clubs the positive tests came from.
Things will get interesting when camp opens next week and daily headcounts can be made by reporters in every rink, where they will get their first look at team practices in four months.
How various absences will be accounted for by the teams will be fascinating.
Now, more answers to your questions in the pre-camp mailbag:
Q: With a flat cap the next few years, how do you think that will affect the Flames re-signing either Hamonic or Brodie? (@BChud1972)
A: It certainly makes it harder, but the reality is both players will have to adjust their salary expectations.
Most contenders in the league will be feeling the cap squeeze, limiting their ability to make significant additions in the off-season. That said, the Flames have a little more wiggle room than most, giving them a bit of an advantage over others.
There has never been any chance both would return – they might be able to keep one at best. Smart money is on that player being Brodie, if they keep either.
Q: Which goalie named Cam Talbot deserves to start for the Flames? Talbot was trending up before the season abruptly ended and Rittich trending down. (@jakethesnail)
A: There’s no doubt in my mind Cam Talbot will be pegged to be the starter to open the play-in series against Winnipeg.
Indeed, he was the hotter goalie before the pause, posting numbers that put him amongst league leaders since Christmas. His season totals are actually remarkably close to Vezina candidate Connor Hellebuyck in save percentage and GAA (.919, 2.63 for Talbot, .922, 2.57 for his Jets counterpart).
Not only was he the better, more consistent Flames goalie this year, but he has much more playoff experience as well. Several Flames management types put a lot of stock in the belief that it’s easier to start the veteran and then go to the backup if things go sideways, as opposed to trying it the other way around.
All that said, if Talbot doesn’t have a good camp when the lads return, the competition could be wide open again.
Q: Do you think the Eastern conf. teams should play in Edmonton and vice versa? (@Rob_MetalVodka)
A: No, not at all.
First, I think we can all agree “home-ice advantage” has been mitigated by the fact there will be no fans in the stands, nor are the Oilers or Leafs guaranteed to even be in their own dressing room while there.
Further, the players on host teams will be staying in the same hotels as every other team in their hub. There’s zero reason to mess with the time zones for teams in either conference.
The league and its broadcast partners obviously want to maximize viewership, so it would make little sense to have the Leafs playing in Edmonton where some of their games would either have to be played at 8 p.m. MT (10 p.m. out east) or play late afternoon games in Edmonton to mesh with prime time in Ontario.
No eastern audience wants games for their teams to start at 10 p.m. Keep the teams in the geographical regions in which they belong and are most accustomed to playing in.
Q: How far would the Flames have to go in the playoffs to have the interim tag removed from Ward, knowing the likes of Gallant and Laviolette are still out there? (@rtrevy)
A: A play-in Flame-out would certainly have the GM reviewing everything in the organization once again.
A first-round flop aside, it’s hard to fathom the club wouldn’t drop the interim tag and give Geoff Ward at least one more year (that’s how much he has left on his current contract) as head coach.
The Flames have never been interested in hiring pricy, star-studded coaches and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon given the horrific Calgary economy and the obvious financial barriers facing the league with COVID-19 ever-looming.
Q: Will the Flames be improved with Hall, Lehner over Gaudreau and Talbot next season? (@finleysp_mark)
A: The Flames will be in the market for a goalie if Cam Talbot can’t be re-signed.
But while Robin Lehner is a remote possibility on that front, Taylor Hall isn’t. Well, at the very least, not as a replacement for Gaudreau.
Listen, talk of a Gaudreau trade has been, by far, the biggest topic amongst Flames fans the last year-and-a-half.
Eventually, it will happen, but linking it to Hall makes little sense as he’s a UFA who is in for a payday that will likely have him making several million more than Gaudreau’s $6.75 million cap hit.
Q: Do you believe it’s time to shake up the core group? (@Carsonelc13)
A: Let’s answer that one after the playoffs.
The answer could be a little more obvious then.