- The Edmonton Oilers have placed five players and six staffers into the NHL’s COVID protocol.
- The Oilers already had Connor McDavid, Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie in COVID protocol and forward Ryan-Nugent Hopkins on injured reserve.
- After a solid start this season, Edmonton has lost 11 of their last 13 games.
The 2021-2022 NHL season began with much promise for the Edmonton Oilers. In fact, there was talk that this could finally be the season that the team put their long history of bad luck to bed. On November 15, Edmonton was atop the Pacific Division with a record of 11-3-0 with 22 points tying them for the second best record in the league. Connor McDavid was on pace to have a career year and when the best player in hockey and reigning MVP is looking at a ‘career year’ he’s going to do plenty of damage. More importantly, he was getting help from all over the roster. The Oilers would start the season 16-5-0 before the turnaround began.
Less than two months later, the bottom has fallen out for the Oilers. Not only have they lost 11 of their last 13 games and dropped to sixth place in the Pacific Division, the team has been ravaged by the recent COVID-19 outbreak in North America. Earlier today, Edmonton added five players and six staffers to a COVID list that already included Connor McDavid, Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie. Added to the COVID list for Edmonton: Evan Bouchard, Slate Koekkoek, Brendan Perlini and Ilya Konovalov and Kailer Yamamoto.
Not surprisingly, head coach Dave Tippett is frustrated with a combination of things–losing, the COVID situation and the myriad standards his team has to navigate on the road:
“With the way things are going here, it’s a daily occurrence,” he said. “When you’re playing in as many cities and there are different rules everywhere you go — New York City there’s one rule, on [Long] Island there’s another rule, in [New] Jersey another rule — it’s crazy.”
“They just tell me if he’s positive, then he’s positive. When two of your four centermen are out and one of them is Connor McDavid, that’s not a positive.”
There is some good news of of all of this, relatively speaking. The current omicron variation looks to be less virulent than previous COVID iterations and especially for NHL players whom all all young, healthy and fully vaccinated. Few, if any, players on the COVID list for the Oilers and other NHL teams have any symptoms at all, let alone severe symptoms. McDavid could be on the verge of a return and the struggles other teams are having with COVID could give the Oilers more time to recuperate as well as to try and figure out the team’s other issues. The NHL has been quick to cancel games involving Canadian teams of late–not so much due to infections among players but due to attendance restrictions in a number of cities an provinces. The Edmonton Journal reprinted this dispatch from the team in yesterday’s paper:
“Coach Tipp notes that Yamamoto was pulled from Oilers practice after a positive rapid test. He’ll enter COVID protocol and await further results. McDavid, Barrie and Ryan are eligible to come out of protocol on Sunday & may all be available for Monday vs. Ottawa.”
As for Ottawa, they had two games postponed because of attendance restrictions:
Ottawa Senators games at the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and at the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 15 were postponed by the NHL on Friday because of attendance restrictions in Canada cities because of COVID-19.
The NHL said the games would be rescheduled for dates later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted.
With the Oilers’ COVID situation like it as and with a 50% capacity limit in effect in Alberta there’s a more than likely chance that Monday’s game against Ottawa will also be postponed. Postponing games for this reason is a smart move for the NHL–it protects revenues of their member teams and allows them to deal with their internal COVID issues. The two Senators’ postponements mean that 101 NHL games have been postponed so far this season due to COVID related issues. To date, only five of these games have been rescheduled–most likely meaning that the NHL isn’t in a rush to do so with a good chance of a better situation relative to COVID later in the campaign.