The NHL and NHLPA still have not agreed on roster limits.
While the Return to Play plan was agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA and while we are getting closer to playing hockey than ever before, there are still kinks to iron out.
Next week the NHL will begin phase two of the Return to Play plan which will allow up to six skaters at a time in practice facilities. But when we fast forward to the time that the games will actually be played, just how many players will be moving with the team? That has yet to be decided technically.
The initial suggestion was roughly about 28 skaters and unlimited goalies, which had teams with serious goalie depth salivating at the idea of never having to play a tired goalie ever again. But in reality, that is a lot of players. Only 20 ever dress for a game and having at least six healthy scratches could be a recipe for trouble.
Consider players that would be so far deep in the depth charts in either goaltending or skating being asked to leave their family, go into quarantine, take constant invasive tests, and basically have a lot of restrictions placed on their freedoms only to never place a skate on regulation ice if the need for them never arises.
That would be incredibly frustrating. But perhaps many NHL players would say it would be worth it just for the chance to have their names on the Stanley Cup and perhaps a chance to hoist it with the team.
Okay, I get that but what about the other risks? The more players you invite, the more gear will be needed, the more staff will be needed to facilitate these players, and overall, the more people overall will be in the “bubble” the NHL has suggested building to facilitate the plan.
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The more people involved, the higher the risk of infection. Not just from individuals coming in, after all, testing should prevent anyone from coming in with infection, but from leaks in the “bubble”. There is no way to actually make the “bubble” airtight, but the less actual individuals involved, the better the chances of minimizing the risk of infection.
So do not be surprised if the NHL and NHLPA back off from the suggested concept of 28 skaters and unlimited goalies. While it may sound good in theory, many players who’s season with the AHL, ECHL, or other leagues is technically over, might want to remain at home and not be forced to join an NHL team that they might never actually play with in Vegas or yet-to-be-named Canadian City.
After all, any plan that doesn’t consider the safety of the players above all else is FUBAR and should be reconsidered immediately. If and when the NHL returns to playing again, doing it the right way is more important than doing it the fastest way.
Question for CC Readers: How many skaters and goalies do you think should join the team?