Opinion | 13 thoughts: the NHL shuts down, and Marner’s mind wanders to Maurice to memories of an old Maple Leaf

From a hockey perspective, it doesn’t feel like a Merry Christmas, does it?

A year ago we were making plans to start a 56-game season, played largely without fans in the building, with Canadian teams in their own division.

Now everything is closed. A few days for some. Some others more.

In hindsight, it didn’t take us long to feel closer to normal. The Leafs were really good. They traded a ton of draft picks on the deadline. They lost in the first round, again. And the fans were allowed back in.

The Delta variant was easy. To Omicron, and now we wonder what’s going to happen, maybe not just in the NHL season and the Olympics, but with all of us.

My mind wanders. Is this ever going to end? Can I find a pop-up booster location? Can I get a rapid antigen test before Christmas? How is Jason Spezza going to spend Christmas isolated from his four daughters? Wait, can my daughter cook a turkey? Will there be gluten-free beer? Will Auston Matthews ever play a season long enough to break Rick Vaive’s record for goals scored (54) by a Leafs player in one season? Will I ever take a four game road trip again and cover four games? Are NHL outdoor games coming up? Can everyone play them outside?

Questions, questions, questions. As always, if you have any questions, please email me at askkevinmcgra[email protected] and I will answer them in the following mail folder.

Now at 13 reflections, with a “bonus” 14! (Is that allowed?)

one. The NHL and the Leafs have closed until after Christmas. For Mitch Marner, however, there is good news. Marner, remember, has to sit 10 games because he was put on long-term injured reserve with a shoulder injury, a move that created salary-cap space for replacements. He spent six games. The next four have been postponed. But you won’t have to wait four more to get back. The league counts postponed games among the mandatory 10 that must be missed. So as long as he’s healthy, and every time the Leafs play again, Marner should be able to come back. The next game scheduled is December 27.

two. Hi Sportsnet, how about we make Paul Maurice the new host of “Coach’s Corner”? I would tune in. I can live with fewer analysts breaking down the games we’re watching on the “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast. Leave the “gotta get deep records” analysis for the Sunday-Friday broadcasts.

Mitch Marner, the one on the ice, is eligible to return when the Leafs return.  That could be next Monday in Columbus.

3. “Hockey Night In Canada” is supposed to be special, not just the same faces from other nights gathered in one space. I would go with Maurice in the first period, talking about the big picture, the modern game. Then I would try to reinforce 32 thoughts. Or ditch it and go back to a panel of the best hockey reporters, regardless of employer or location, breaking news at the second intermission and talking about the hot topics of the day.

Four. Funny what’s important, because Jason Spezza’s commuted suspension, up to four games, seemed like big news on Friday. For an hour and a half or so. We later learned that John Tavares and Alex Kerfoot were put on COVID protocols and word of the pandemic spread from there.

5. The NHL’s decision to postpone cross-border games has nothing to do with any changes in government policy regarding air travel, and it has to do with players not wanting to get stuck on the wrong side of the border to Christmas, if they test positive. by the coronavirus. The Leafs made this point very clear, as they did not want to go to Seattle after their game in Vancouver was postponed.

6. It is more than the NHL that has been disrupted by the latest wave. Canada withdrew from the Spengler Cup in Switzerland and the youth world tournament postponed some exhibition games in Red Deer, Alta.

7. The odds of the NHL going to the Olympics must be pretty high right now. Just by pitching this: What are the chances of there being a Winter Olympics? Not because of a political boycott, but because of the pandemic and this damn variant of Omicron.

8. Canada was the favorite to win hockey gold on most betting sites. If there’s a Winter Games, I’d probably go with Russia, which won in 2018 when there were no NHL players.

9. If you want a good news story, then there may be no one better than Garret Sparks, who was called up by the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday and beat Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. It was his first NHL start since a single game as a Gold Knight, where he landed after, let’s be honest, a disastrous 2018-19 with the Maple Leafs. That season had started with plenty of promise, with Sparks coming out of a Calder Cup and top goalkeeper honors in the AHL with the Marlies.

10. Here’s some of what he said: “You only get opportunities like this once in a while. I just wanted to enjoy it. Enjoy the moment, have fun. He didn’t want to think he was out of it. Goalkeeping is an anxious position. You struggle with it, you struggle with injuries, you get to the top level and they take it away from you and you have to work your way back. “

eleven. “I have had to restructure everything I do. I just had to get my life back. It’s more than just hockey. A lot of work. Still, it was worth it. “

12. Sparks said the concussion he suffered in Toronto (in January 2019, when he was shot by William Nylander in practice) was a major setback. “I was having a really good season and it derailed my season. The wheels fell off a bit. You have to start from scratch and work your way back. I was at the ECHL around this time last year, making $ 600 a week. He was having a good time, he just enjoyed playing hockey. It was insane to be back on the NHL ice, playing the top scorer of all time, and having an answer. It was great.”

13. I always wondered if Sparks would have had a different career if Mike Babcock hadn’t been a coach. Babcock doesn’t like criticism, and definitely not from long-haired rookie goalies who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, who speak from the heart, and who speak of the demons in their heads. However, journalists love guys like that. More like him, please.

14. Merry Christmas. I love you all. Yes, it is allowed.


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